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Innovating for health

Biohit was established in 1988 and has been a publicly listed company since 1999. Since its establishment, Biohit has followed an aggressive innovation and patenting strategy in developing, manufacturing, and marketing liquid handling products and diagnostic test systems.

Biohit is a global biotech company driven by solid basic research and innovation. In the focused niche liquid handling area, Biohit is the global market leader in ergonomic and safe mechanical and electronic pipettes, and the world’s leading OEM of liquid handling products. Many OEM customers such as bioMérieux, 3M, and three Johnson & Johnson Group companies complement their diagnostic test systems with Biohit’s innovative liquid handling solutions and technologies. Eppendorf, one of the leading laboratory equipment suppliers, relied on Biohit’s technology and know-how when bringing its first electronic pipettes to market, and its mechanical Reference® pipettes include some unique features invented by Biohit.

In addition to liquid handling products, Biohit has invested heavily in the development of diagnostics products and has established Biohit HealthCare (BHC). The company’s diagnostic products can be combined with its liquid handling products to offer comprehensive analysing systems and laboratories for research and clinical diagnostics.

Biohit is looking for strategic partners for BHC, and the company’s strategy envisions the division becoming an independent public company. The ideal partner would be an industrial company or private equity investor that could bring competence and networks for the marketing, sales, and distribution of BHC products and services for the safe and economic diagnosis and prevention of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.

Meeting unmet medical needs

GastroPanel reveals the status and functioning of the mucosa of the entire stomach, and is a reliable non-endoscopic, non-invasive laboratory test for atrophic gastritis with its related risks, such as gastric cancer. The GastroPanel also provides a diagnosis of Helicobacter pylori infection.

Despite being one of the world’s largest therapeutic areas and placing a massive burden on health care systems and economies worldwide, many diseases of the gastrointestinal tract are still poorly understood. Diagnostic and therapeutic options are far from optimal, leaving many patients dissatisfied with their current treatment.

The ageing of the population will increase the incidence of serious diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, such as gastric, esophageal, and colorectal cancers and peptic ulcer diseases, and complications such as anaemia and osteoporosis, as well as dementia, depression, polyneuropathies, atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes due to atrophic gastritis and vitamin B12 deficiency. Early diagnosis, screening, and therapy of this population are expected to increase substantially. This prevention, diagnostic, and therapeutic area is already worth billions of euros and will see high growth with good returns for successful companies.

Many of the medical, ethical, and economic problems of gastrointestinal diseases could be alleviated and solved by BHC’s in vitro diagnostics and screening tests. BHC’s product portfolio offers a platform for growth in the multi-billion market gastrointestinal diagnosis and disease management area through safe and cost-effective products and complete analysing systems and services designed to satisfy unmet medical, ethical, and economic needs.

A major innovation

The Australian doctors Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren received the Nobel Prize for the discovery of Helicobacter pylori and elucidating its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer diseases. Biohit’s GastroPanel innovation is based on collaboration with Biohit’s scientific advisors and allows physicians to benefit from these significant findings more effectively than ever before. Together, these discoveries promote the development of safe, ethical, and cost-effective evidence-based and preventative medicine.

The GastroPanel (pepsinogen I and II, gastrin-17 and H. pylori antibodies) tests are based on the microplate immunoassays and vertical measurement principle invented by Biohit’s CEO and President, Professor Osmo Suovaniemi, M.D., Ph.D. (Google search: aggressive innovation and patenting strategy in Finland).

Prior to GastroPanel, only invasive gastroscopy and biopsy specimen examination were available to identify healthy stomach mucosa and rarely symptomatic atrophic gastritis, with its related risks, such as gastric cancer, peptic ulcer disease, and vitamin B12, iron, and calcium deficiency.

GastroPanel gives physicians simple and noninvasive means to diagnose patients with dyspepsia, H. pylori infection, and atrophic gastritis, and the risks of complications from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These complications are often asymptomatic erosive esophagitis and Barrett’s esophagus, which may develop into esophageal cancer. Patients with autoimmune diseases may have autoimmune atrophic gastritis (corpus atrophy), while those with autoimmune atrophic gastritis may also have other autoimmune diseases.

To avoid the consequences of the delayed diagnosis of gastric cancer or peptic ulcer disease, the serious medical and ethical problems of the ‘test and treat’ strategy should be corrected simply and economically by replacing the 13C- urea breath test or stool antigen test for dyspepsia and H. pylori infection with the GastroPanel examination.

It is recommendable that GastroPanel examinations should be used as a routine screening examination for all patients over 45, and included in the diagnostic practice of dyspepsia-like complaints or any autoimmune disease in patients of all ages.

To ensure patient safety, GastroPanel examination is also recommendable prior to any proton pump inhibitor therapy and H. pylori eradication therapy. In addition, GastroPanel is able to assess the recovery of the loss of the function of gastric mucosa due to atrophic gastritis and the risk of GERD complications.

If a GastroPanel examination indicates that the gastric mucosa is intact (no H. pylori infection or atrophic gastritis), then the patient’s dyspepsia symptoms are functional or are related to a disease that does not involve the stomach mucosa. If patients are diagnosed with rarely symptomatic atrophic gastritis using GastroPanel, they should be referred for gastroscopy and biopsy specimen examination and treatment.

> Osmo Suovaniemi
(Published in HighTech Finland 2009)