Sony targets Israeli medical technologies

The company plans to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Israeli companies and is mulling setting up a development center.

Sources inform ''Globes'' that Sony Corporation (NYSE: SNE; TSE: 6758) is actively seeking to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Israeli medical technologies. The company has established a team to review the Israeli market to seek out companies for investment or acquisition. The team has already held intensive meetings with Israeli venture capital funds and companies. This is the first time that Sony has operated in such a manner and if the process is successful, the company's acquired or in the investment portfolio may form the basis for a Sony development center in Israel.

The link between the Japanese consumer electronics giant and medical technologies is not as astonishing as may first appear. The company is already active in the field, it offers technologies for documentation, storage, and specialized cameras for imaging and devices for recording the images, high-resolutions screens for displaying images and medical information, and printers. It is also interested in batteries for medical devices, which must be more reliable than regular batteries.

The boundaries between consumer electronics and medical devices has been blurring. Home medical devices, such as for measuring blood pressure or glucose levels, must store data, send them to doctors, and present them to patients. Smartphones and tablets have healthcare and sports activities applications. Home electronics devices can double as reliable medical monitors.

Companies from across the field are competing for this business, such as medical devices giants like Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), Boston Scientific Inc. (NYSE: BSX), and Medtronics Inc. (NYSE: MDT); monitor manufacturers such as GE Healthcare, Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; DAX: SIE), and Royal Philips Electronics NV (Euronext: PHIA, NYSE: PHG); and information companies like Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), Microsoft Corporation (Nasdaq: MSFT), and Facebook Inc. Smartphone makers, such as Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (KSX: 5930; LSE: SMSN, SMSD), have been mentioned as being very interested in the field as well.

The vision of cooperation goes even farther, such as physical training or physiotherapy via gaming programs on TV, including locating the patient, checking his or her vital signs, and customizing the body movements. Another example is to carry out blood tests via devices linked to smartphones, storing the data, and sending the results immediately to the doctor.

Sony has suffered heavy losses in its core businesses in recent years, including a $2.9 billion loss in 2011. New CEO Kazuo Hirari, who will take up his post on April 1, says that the company must rely less on consumer electronics, and focus on other fields, such as medical devices. A few months ago, VP Hiroshi Yoshioka said, "As populations age, demand for medical devices rises, and we intend to participate in this."

Many options

Six months ago, Sony acquired Micronics Inc., which specializes in developing easy to use mobile blood, saliva, and other test kits. Sony executives said at the time that they were examining testing devices that would not require patients going to clinics. The company is already marketing devices for the healthcare market, and it is developing new activities by selling directly to consumers.

In 2010, Sony acquired iCyst Mission Technology Inc., which classifies stem cells for research. At the time, Sony said that these products could use its Blu-Ray and other optical technologies for high resolution recording and imaging devices. Sony has new strategic agreements with three laboratory sample analysis companies.

Israel has a wide range of companies that might interest Sony, including imaging companies such as Given Imaging Ltd. (Nasdaq: GIVN; TASE: GIVN), Medigus Ltd. (TASE:MDGS), Check Cap Ltd., and Arineta Ltd.; laboratory testing automation companies, such as BioView Ltd. (TASE:BIOV), and Applied Spectral Imaging (ASI); molecular testing companies, such as Savyon Diagnostics Ltd., Novamed Ltd., Micromedic Technologies Ltd. (TASE:MCTC), and Pocared Ltd.; smartphone diabetes monitors application developers, such as Glucobay Ltd.; cognitive training companies like Desk Trainer Ltd., CogniFit Ltd., and Attengo Ltd.; and monitoring companies, such as LifeWatch AG (SWX:LIFE); and simulation and training companies, such as Simbionix Ltd.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on March 18, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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