Trends & Perspectives

Published: January 11, 2012
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Sony Buys Micronics, Extends IVD Reach

Sony bought Micronics to boost its own R&D in the area of point-of-care diagnostic equipment and to accelerate commercialization of these products.

By: Maureen Kingsley

In September of last year, Sony Corp. acquired venture corporation Micronics Inc. (Redmond, WA) through its wholly owned subsidiary, Sony Corp. of America. Sony bought Micronics to boost its own R&D in the area of point-of-care diagnostic equipment and to accelerate commercialization of these products.
“We don’t have a specific business plan to announce at this time,” says Mack Araki, public affairs, Sony Corp. of America. “Our hope is that the acquisition of Micronics will accelerate commercialization of our point-of-care devices.”
Sony, well known worldwide for everything from consumer electronics to hospital equipment, has so far dabbled in IVD research only. It has not commercialized any IVD technology. “Our goal is to commercialize point-of-care diagnostic devices based on both Micronics’ and Sony’s technologies,” says Araki. “Micronics has globally recognized microfluidics technology and has an impressive patent portfolio,” he adds. “The company has also accumulated a wealth of expertise through its comprehensive product development for third-party clients.”
Araki says that Micronics was the first company to obtain FDA clearance for a microfluidics device for rapid blood typing, the ABORhCard. It is a closed-system, sample-to-result test that provides both ABO and Rh blood type from a fingerstick blood sample. Once the blood sample is applied, the test is performed in less than one minute. That device was cleared in April 2010.
Another product Micronics is focused on, which may be of high interest to Sony, is its PanNAT molecular diagnostic platform and the related assays. The PanNAT instrument is a battery- or main-powered device capable of processing discrete cartridges, each designed to perform a single or multiplexed nucleic acid amplification assay.  Each assay is fully integrated into the disposable cartridge and includes all necessary reagents. A small volume of biological sample is required, and there is no sample prep, according to a product description on Micronics’ Web site. The system provides a sample-on/result-off answer in 30 minutes and is configured for use in decentralized environments. PanNAT assays currently in development include malaria and Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli.
Micronics also holds two patents for a rapid thermocycling methodology for molecular diagnostics. The second patent is called “System and method for heating, cooling and heat cycling on a microfluidic device” and has broad utility across the life sciences sector, with particular application in point-of-care molecular diagnostics, the company says.
First TVs, Then Medical Equipment, Now Molecular Diagnostics? In a press release about the Micronics acquisition, Keiji Kimura, EVP and executive officer, said, “For some time, Sony has applied its consumer electronics technology to contribute to research and development in the medical and healthcare fields. We believe that the combination of Micronics’ development capabilities in the medical diagnosis domain and our consumer electronics and IT technologies, such as in optical discs, will enable us to offer innovative solutions that are responsive to the rapidly escalating needs of point-of-care diagnostics worldwide.”
Araki points out that Sony has quite a presence in the medical-electronics market already, with products such as printers, recorders, OLED displays, and imagers. “For example,” he says, “our image sensors have been widely used for consumer and professional cameras, and our OLED display was first introduced as a television for general consumer use.”

Sony DADC extends OEM smart consumables business. Sony Corp. also has an interest in the IVD sector through Sony DADC BioSciences, a business unit of Sony DADC which has been manufacturing optical discs for private label clients worldwide for more than 25 years. Sony DADC Biosciences has announced a spate of OEM deals to supply both established and emerging IVD companies with smart consumables. The latest is with Maven Biotechnologies on the development and manufacture of smart consumables for Maven’s LFIRE detection platform. LFIRE, which stands for “label-free internal reflection ellipsometry,” is a real-time imaging technology for performing quantitative, label-free, cell-based assays and multiplexed biomarker detection. In 2010, the National Institute of Health awarded Maven a nearly $2-million grant to commercialize the technology. According to Ali Tinalzli, PhD, director of business development & sales North America for Sony DADC, this collaboration “provides a perfect example” of how Sony DADC can translate its experience in micro-structured engineering, gained through its “optical disc work,” to the needs of the life sciences industry. “We are particularly pleased,” he said, “to work with Maven at such an early stage, which ensures solutions that will be scalable and traceable, to smooth the way to future regulatory approvals in the clinical space. Furthermore, clients value our longstanding reputation for confidentiality.”


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