Recently, General Electric Company (GE) completed the
acquisition of life sciences/diagnostic imaging giant Amersham plc.
Together, these companies will form a new division known as GE
Healthcare with a focus on imaging, diagnostic pharmaceuticals, and
drug discovery. Dan Peters, President of Medical Diagnostics at GE
Healthcare, recently spoke with
about the acquisition and its impact on the future of diagnostic
How large is the new company? How will it be structured?
GE Healthcare is approximately a $14 billion global business. It is
a distinct unit of GE. We are going to spend approximately $2.7
billion a year in research and development. We have roughly 42,500
employees worldwide. Sir William Castell, who was the CEO of
Amersham plc, is now the President and CEO of GE Healthcare. That
is part of the intention to globalize the GE Healthcare business
and to be a big player in Europe, as well as the rest of the
GE Healthcare Technology, the old GE Medical Systems, will
continue to be headquartered in Waukesha, WI, and will continue to
be led by Joseph Hogan, President and CEO. This will still be an
$11 billion business, with products and services in areas like
diagnostic imaging equipment, ultrasound, interventional equipment,
and information technologies.
The other part of GE Healthcare is called GE Healthcare
Bio-Sciences. Peter Loescher will be President and CEO of
Bio-Sciences. It is the pharmaceutical part-the in vivo medical
diagnostics business that I run, and the two other businesses:
protein separation and discovery. Importantly, we are going to
headquarter this business in Chalfont St. Giles, UK, a town just
outside London. This, too, is a reflection of GE's ambition to
participate more in the global economy, not just in the United
These two businesses will work together, trying to build upon
each other's strengths, learning from each other, as much as
possible, about how we can be stronger and contribute more to the
diagnostic community. We think it gives us a good platform upon
which to identify synergies for good ideas, good thinking, and best
What was it that brought these two companies together?
Before the acquisition, GE, as it was previously defined, was the
leader in its particular footprint of business with technologies,
and Amersham was the leader in its particular footprint of business
with biologics and pharmaceuticals. We think it makes great
I think the real key, however, is that we both share a vision of
the future of diagnostics, of personalized medicine, molecular
diagnostics, and really doing diagnosis at the disease level and
being an integral part of the provision of healthcare. We both
shared that vision before we became joined, and it was that shared
vision that really brought the two businesses together. We see
molecular imaging, which is getting diagnosis right down to the
disease level, as a very important step in the future of
Will this acquisition affect how new products are developed?
Yes. When it comes to the development of products, our biological
research will continue to be within Bio-Sciences, and technology
will stay on the Technology side. But, absolutely, if there is an
opportunity to provide better tools for the diagnostic physician so
that they can do their job more effectively, then certainly we will
look for ways to answer that need. It's all an issue of what can we
do to help all physicians treat their patients more effectively.
And to the extent that we can combine some of our thinking to help
come up with solutions, we are certainly going to do that.
How will this affect the day-to-day practice of the typical
We think that the diagnostic physician will be very well served by
this. We firmly believe that diagnostic information will be
critical in providing good healthcare in the future. We believe
that good diagnosis-early diagnosis-allows either early
intervention or the most effective treatment to be applied to the
patient, thereby getting better results and, as much as possible,
controlling the cost.
Do you think this joining of forces will help bring mo-lecular
imaging to the forefront of radiologic practice?
Molecular imaging is still in the early stages, and we think this
will help us bring it to the physicians faster wherever possible.
If we have any technical hurdles along the way, hopefully, we can
address them more effectively now.
That's the whole name of the game: to get molecular,
personalized imaging products out to the physicians as quickly as
we can with good information, good clinical data, and good
protocols as to how they can be used.
What do you foresee as being the most significant advancements in
diagnostic imaging over the coming decade?
We think that in 5 to 10 years you are going to see good
personalized medicine information, good molecular imaging. I really
do think that that is the direction imaging is going to go:
continued advancements in equipment and, on the biological side,
the evolution from anatomic information to the physiologic,
biologic information. That would be a major step. I think these are
major, evolutionary changes.
Historically, diagnostic physicians are left with seeing the
results of a disease that already took place. If we can get good
molecular imaging earlier, then intervention can take place earlier
as well (Figure). The tremendous growth that you have seen in
interventional imaging and interventional radiology will expand
rapidly, and we can start diagnosing things earlier and helping
patients much earlier in the disease process.
Within which clinical areas will GE Healthcare be focusing their
new product development?
At GE, the areas that we are focusing on are cancer, heart disease,
and neurological disorders. We know that approximately 1 in 3
persons will contract cancer before the end of their lifetime. We
know that 50% of the patients who have heart disease die after
their first heart attack. We also know that 20% of the people aged
55 to 84 suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Those are huge areas that
require real investment to try to get to the disease earlier. These
are areas that we think really warrant the emphasis on molecular
We have a continuum in terms of the healthcare paradigm that we
like to follow whenever possible: we are trying to be able to
predict, then diagnose, then inform and treat. We see that as an
evolution of the diagnostic paradigm going forward for the next 5
to 10 years or beyond.
On the "predict" side, we do see that this is an area in which
we are going to have a molecular understanding of disease, looking
at the fingerprint of a disease, so we can tell the person if they
have the potential for a particular disease. On the "diagnosis"
side, we think that if you can find a disease earlier, then you can
treat it earlier, and we can limit the intervention into a patient
and have a better chance for effective treatment. On the "inform"
side, we just think that with molecular information, you can give
better care; you can give excellent patient information- when,
where, and how a disease should be treated. On the "treatment"
side, we want to be able to read the genes, understand the disease
at a very early level, and, as I say, treat it as early as
We really think that if we can detect it earlier, physicians may
be able to stop disease very early in the process and really limit
the morbidity of the disease.
What kind of feedback have you received from radiologists regarding
The feedback we are getting on the acquisition of Amersham has been
positive. I think we are positioned to address the biggest
challenges in healthcare and to create the transformation of
diagnostic imaging to a new medical imaging area. We think that we
are well-positioned to shape a new age in medicine.