By Deb Borfitz
November 16, 2009 | Medical device companies will be the most immediate beneficiaries of the expanded capabilities of BioClinica, the result of its recent acquisition of electronic image transport specialist CardioNow. In particular, device makers are interested in the integration of BioClinica Express electronic data capture (EDC) with BioClinica’s new ability to securely deliver trial-related images over the Internet from clinical sites to imaging core labs, says president and CEO Mark Weinstein.
The CardioNow purchase brings BioClinica a strong reputation in the cardiovascular medical device field, dominated by tech-savvy academic medical centers that have been transmitting images electronically since 2000, says Weinstein. Trial efficiency is critical with devices, given that they may have only a two-year shelf life before an improved version hits the market. Subject recruitment for trials can’t turn into the two-year ordeal it often is for drugs. Recruitment more typically happens in a concentrated time period, all but requiring digitalization to process the bolus of information accruing over two or three months.
To date, BioClinica has coupled EDC and image management services for five studies, says Weinstein. The CardioNow acquisition gives BioClinica a “total turnkey offering” for device companies that will likely grow business volume in that sector, which historically represented a less than 10% slice of overall revenues.
CardioNow, a unit of Agfa HealthCare, has successfully managed more than 8.8 million DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) cardiac images on behalf of about 500 institutions worldwide since 1999, says Weinstein. That should make it sufficiently vetted even for the notoriously risk-averse pharmaceutical sector.
Together with its bio-imaging, EDC, and interactive voice/web response capabilities (from its most recent acquisition of Tourtellotte Solutions), BioClinica has a “comprehensive offering truly unmatched in the industry,” says Weinstein. An integrated, end-to-end product suite holds increasing appeal to pharmaceutical companies that want to leverage their hefty investments in data management.
BioClinica will be extending CardioNow’s capabilities to its other areas of therapeutic expertise—notably oncology, neurology, and musculoskeletal—and offering it as an option on the more than 200 studies on which it is currently managing medical images, says Weinstein. The company receives medical images and data from approximately 11,000 independent imaging centers in 83 countries. “We’ve been in this space a long time [since 1990] and more than 90% of the time we still receive electronic images…on a disk in an envelope.”
Study sponsors could see transmission fees shrink by 15% to 20% for every imaging center that opts to send images electronically rather than by FedEx or courier service, says Weinstein. But the transition could take awhile. Not all imaging sites have the Internet connectivity necessary to handle such large files and they’re not financially motivated to make the switch to broadband. Scans related to clinical research account for less than 1% of overall revenues at most sites.
Trial sponsors generally don’t mandate electronic image transmission, fearing it will limit patient recruitment wherever bandwidth is limited. BioClinica, for its part, is happy to receive patient data by whatever means necessary, says Weinstein, adding that it still has the same number of employees opening FedEx envelopes. But the efficiency and quality gains of sending images electronically has growing appeal to sponsors, and vendors are emerging that cater to this newfound interest. Offering “one-stop shopping” for image transmission and EDC thus keeps BioClinica preemptively ahead of the competition.
The CardioNow acquisition came with less than $1 million in annual revenues, says Weinstein, but not for want of greater potential. It was the property of Heartlab, Inc. before being acquired by Agfa HealthCare in 2005 and “couldn’t get [sufficient] corporate attention to build the business.”
Whether or not the CardioNow moniker is retained, the business it represents should be invigorated under BioClinica’s corporate umbrella. The publicly traded company, created from the acquisition of Phoenix Data Systems by Bio-Imaging Technologies, has money in the bank and no debt. “It’s what differentiates us among small players” providing clinical trials services, Weinstein says, “especially when sponsors are embarking on a three- to-five-year study.”