Consumer electronics giant wants to create patient-friendly medical devices and diagnostic kits that will be used in point-of-care settings
Sony is laying groundwork for a major expansion into the world of medical devices, with a particular interest in medical laboratory testing and diagnostic test kits. Experts point to Sony’s new strategy as a sign that prospects in diagnostic testing remain incredibly strong.
Citing unnamed sources, the Israeli business daily Globes printed a story reporting that consumer electronics giant Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) is actively seeking to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Israeli medical technologies.
Confluence of Electronics and Medical Devices Heats Up Sector
This is a major strategy change for Sony and company officials state that Sony will rely less on consumer electronics as it shifts its focus to other sectors, particularly medical devices and clinical diagnostics, in an effort to revive earnings. This was reported in a story reported by Business Week.
Sony has its eye on the attractive business prospects for moving into healthcare. “As populations age, demand for medical devices rises, and we intend to participate in this,” declared Hiroshi Yoshioka, Vice President, Sony, Inc., in the Globes piece.
Some clinical laboratory managers and pathology groups may be surprised at the consumer electronic giant’s latest move. But the Globes story demonstrates how the boundaries between consumer electronics and medical devices are blurring.
Sony is just the latest corporate giant to recognize how it can benefit from the confluence of the fields of biotechnology, medical devices, high tech electronics, information technology and telecommunications. These various technologies are being combined to create “smart” medical devices, according to BioDFW, a life sciences regional alliance.
One recent example shared with Dark Daily readers was the recent e-briefing on medical laboratory tests that could be performed in automobiles under development by car manufacturers, Ford and Toyota. (See Dark Daily, “Why Your Ford Mustang or Toyota Prius Will Soon Test Drivers for Glucose Levels and Perform Other Medical Laboratory Tests”.)
Sony is exploring healthcare applications for its consumer-based optic technologies, such as those used for Blu-ray discs and its advanced data processing technologies. It currently offers technologies for documentation and storage. These technologies can be found in products ranging from specialized cameras and recorders, to high-resolution screens for imaging and medical-grade printers.
Just six months ago, the multinational conglomerate acquired diagnostic test kit company Micronics, Inc, based in TBFI. The acquisition positions Sony in near-patient point of care in vitro diagnostic (IVD) products and medical microfluidics.
“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 for point of care diagnosis worldwide,” stated Keiji Kimura, Executive Vice President, Sony Corporation, in a press release announcing the Micronics acquisition.
In 2010, Sony entered the flow cytometry business with its acquisition of iCyt Mission Technology, Inc., a company located in Champaign, Illinois. In a press release announcing that acquisition, Gary Durack, founder, President and CEO of iCyt, explained that Sony brings a wealth of technology and engineering capability to the cytometry field.
Sony also has new strategic agreements with three laboratory sample analysis companies. Since November of last year, its digital audio disc division announced collaborations with RainDance Technologies, Quanterix, and Caliper to further advance Sony’s microfluidic technology, stated a story in MedGadget.com.
In April, Engadget.com posted a news story about how Sony is combining medical device functions with consumer electronics. Pathologists and clinical laboratory managers will find the functions of this patent to be fascinating.
Engadget.com wrote, “Remember when Sony said it would ‘unify’ its product lines and consider going into the medical device business? Well, we’ve unearthed this patent application from 2010 that does that just. A wireless wristband monitors your heart rate, vitals and blood glucose levels, and beams that information to your [HDTV] television over infra-red. Your data will then update in real time for you to watch of an evening, if it’s a choice between that and Gossip Girl, at least. Moreover, if your TV is web-connected, it could even send emergency messages to your local HMO if the conclusion of your favorite show/sporting event sends you into chest-clutching fits of apoplexy.”
Growth Opportunities in Medical Devices and Clinical Laboratory Testing
It is a significant affirmation of the market potential for medical devices and diagnostic test kits when a consumer electronics company like Sony declares its intention to expand its reach into the medical marketplace. Sony would certainly be well-positioned to develop ways to perform blood tests and similar medical lab assays using devices that link to smartphones and tablet computers.
These devices would capture that data and immediately transmit results to the referring doctor. Use of mobile devices in this manner would mean that clinical laboratory managers and pathologists would increasingly interact with patients using these devices.
—Pamela Scherer McLeod