CTI sets sights on molecular imaging; debuting lower-cost PET-CT

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The name change to CTI Molecular Imaging Inc. two years ago this month was just the beginning. The developer and manufacturer of positron emission tomography (PET) and PET-CT imaging technologies is committed to having molecular imaging in its future.

Speaking with Health Imaging News, CTI President and Chief Executive Ronald Nutt, PhD., said that CTI plans to position itself as a developer and distributor of new biomarkers for molecular imaging of the future. More details will be released at this month's annual meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine (SNM) from June 19th-23rd.

Currently, CTI has a partnership with pharmaceutical firm Merck & Co. and is in the process of establishing a similar alliance with drug developer GlaxoSmithKline.

"The concept here is that we will help them get molecular imaging into their process and discoveries," said Nutt. "In return, we will get the rights to any of the molecules they have for treatment. This will be a major new thrust for PET and all of molecular imaging in the future."

CTI develops both PET and PET-CT systems. Nutt himself collaborated with David Townsend, PhD, on the integration of PET and CT when both men were at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1990s. The PET-CT market certainly has boomed in the last two years to a point where PET-CT sales have surpassed shipments of dedicated PET systems.

"I would say that [PET-CT] will exceed 90 percent of the total shipments worldwide this year," Nutt said. "As low as 10 percent [of shipments] this year will be dedicated PET."

To date, PET-CT technology has been pricey, as systems with both high-performance PET and CT technologies reach the $2 million range. Dedicated PET systems, depending on configuration, can reach $1 million.

At SNM 2004, Nutt said that CTI plans to introduce a PET-CT system with a less expensive multislice CT scanner. With fewer CT features than a premier scanner and a top-line PET machine, Nutt said CTI will keep the pricing of its new PET-CT machine in the range of $1.2 million to $1.3 million.

"We will continue in the technology of PET tomographs," added Nutt. "We never plan to be a player to compete with Siemens [Medical Solutions], GE [Healthcare] and Philips [Medical Systems]."

In May, CTI aligned its PET sales and marketing resources with Siemens, restructuring CPS Innovations, the companies' joint business venture for the manufacture, sales and marketing of PET and PET-CT equipment. The reorganization went into effect May 1.

Under the agreement, the CTI's tomograph sales force in the United States becomes a sales agent for Siemens and works under Siemens management. Scanner sales and service activities outside the U.S. -- with the exception of South Korea and Japan where CTI Molecular Imaging has other contractual obligations -- will be performed exclusively by Siemens. Each company will retain its own field service personnel in the U.S.

CTI also has agreements with Hitachi Medical Systems America Inc. and Toshiba Medical Corp. to distribute CTI PET and PET-CT equipment in the United States and Japan, respectively.

Nutt said the "agreement with Siemens does not affect them at all."

All PET and PET-CT scanners sold under this new agreement will be marketed under the Siemens ECAT and biograph labels. In addition, Siemens will begin to market other CTI products and services, including FDG and cyclotrons.

"Siemens has agreed to sell our products worldwide exclusively," said Nutt. "They will not represent anyone else in competition with our products." The pact includes CTI's entire portfolio beyond the PET systems, as well as Mirada Solutions.