Ventana Medical Systems Inc. (Tuscon, AZ) and Vision Systems Pty. Ltd. (Mt. Waverley, Australia), a subsidiary of Danaher Corp., have settled a patent-infringement case involving automated staining instruments in applications such as cytology. Both companies make tissue and slide preparation systems. Under terms of the deal, reports the Associated Press, Ventana receives an upfront payment and a running royalty through March 2010 on U.S. sales of Vision's Bond instruments and related products. In exchange, Ventana will give the company a non-exclusive license to the patent of its Bond-X and Bond maX automated staining instruments. Financial terms were not disclosed.
August 17th, 2007
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Students at a college in Massachusetts have designed a robot that is supposed to help Alzheimer's patients in the early stages of the disease maintain indepence. The voice-activated device, called MindScout, would be used by both patients as well as their caregivers. Consisting of a computer and keyboard, the robot records reminders from a caregiver and converts the speech into text for the patient to read on a screen. The device also holds up to 200 cues to aid caregivers when asked the same question multiple times. While the pricey device ($20,000) is years away from being marketed, the research team hopes to build the prototype in the next year and find funding for it.
August 16th, 2007
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As the number of lyme disease cases continue to rise, scientists are calling for a test that can identify when the bacteria is active in the body. Current tests identify infection-fighting antibodies rather than spotting when a person has active Lyme disease. A test that could detect the early stages of Lyme disease could possibly offer patients better treatment options in the future. New tools being investigated include an antibody test that could track treatment response and brain imaging that could tell when Lyme penetrates the nervous system. The CDC estimates that 20,000 new cases of Lyme disease are reported each year. It's possible that the figure is actually five times higher due to the amount of cases that go unreported.
August 15th, 2007
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Researchers have developed a device that might help doctors identify the early stages of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's. The Sniff Magnitude Test measures a patient's sense of smell, which can be one of the first indications of a brain disorder. Using a nasal tube attached to a plastic container, researchers release chemical vapors that expose a patient to different smells. The size and intensity of a subject's sniff are important, because those with an impaired sense of smell continue to take deep whiffs, as they have trouble identifying the scent. While the test is promising as a "first-alert" method, the researchers stress that the device should be used in conjunction with other brain tests. The WR Medical Electronics Co. (Stillwater, MN) is manufacturing the device and plans on distributing next year.  
August 14th, 2007
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The Star Tribune of Minneapolis has an interesting piece on the expanding use of the da Vinci surgical robot system, made by Intuitive Surgical Inc. (Sunnyvale, CA). While it has been on the market since 1999, it has primarily been used to treat prostate cancer, until recently. Now, it is seeing frequent use in applications such as myomectomy (uterine fibroid removal), bariatric surgery, kidney donor harvesting, and coronary bypass. Interestingly, the increased use is being driven not only by doctors who like the ease of use and effectiveness of the system, but also by patients, who are learning through the Internet of new and better ways that procedures are being performed. All of this means that more hospitals are seeing the system's hefty price tag (the piece mentions that one hospital paid $1.6 million for it) as worth it.
August 13th, 2007
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Just three years after acquiring Advanced Bionics, Boston Scientific Corp. (Natick, MA) has announced plans to read more >>
August 10th, 2007
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Women who receive breast implants are three times more likely to commit suicide than those who don't, states a study published in the August issue of the Annals of Plastic Surgery and reported on by the Los Angeles Times. The study did not look at the causes behind the suicides, but it's possible the elevated rate could be attributed to psychological problems the women had before the implants, which did not improve. This is not the first time breast implants have been linked to suicides. In fact, suicides are one issue that makers of silicone implants must study as a condition of their products' re-approval for the U.S. market. But it is a further blow to the message the implant makers want to send -- that women will feel better about themselves if they have the procedure done.
August 9th, 2007
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Wall Street analysts cheered Boston Scientific when it acquired Guidant in the largest deal in medical device industry history. But the firm's share price and bond ratings have taken a beating since then, read more >>
August 8th, 2007
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Transforming FDA LogoThe House appropriations bill including FDA's budget that was passed last week includes an amendment that would end all conflicts of interest on FDA panels, the Boston Globe reports. The provision, attached by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), would bar anyone with any financial ties to drug or device companies from sitting on FDA advisory panels. The problem is, that would sharply reduce the pool of qualified experts. The reality of today is that many doctors and academics consult with or perform research for the drug and device industries. Whether this is appropriate for the drug industry is debatable, but it is...
August 7th, 2007
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Most biomedical engineering students enter their field with the idea of spending their careers in a research lab, or maybe working for an established hospital or medical device company. But some decide to start businesses of their own, and their universities are helping them. Today's Boston Globe features some of those students from Massachusetts. Particularly notable is Boston University's new Entrepreneurial Research Lab, an effort by its School of Management and Office of Technology Development to commericalize technologies that come out of its science and engineering labs. Its first participant is Brandon Johnson, a student who invented a faster method to diagnose sexually transmitted diseases and has formed a company, Boston Fluidics Inc., to commercialize the technology. Under the terms of the program, his business gets free rent in exchange for him mentoring students...
August 6th, 2007
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