Sony buys medical device maker and eyes new markets

Sony has acquired a small medical researcher in the US and plans to enter the market for portable medical testing, the company announced today.

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Sony has acquired small American medical researcher Micronics, and plans to enter the market for portable medical testing, the company announced today.

The consumer electronics giant purchased Micronics, based in Redmond, Washington, for an undisclosed amount. Micronics specialises in developing portable devices that can be used to perform tests on body fluids such as blood and saliva.

Sony hopes to use optical technologies it developed for its Blu-ray players and other consumer products in the new devices, spokesman Chisato Kitsukawa said. It is increasingly searching for medical applications for its technical know-how, and last year bought another medical device maker, iCyt.

Seeking government approval

Sony said it will look to accelerate a move into producing "point of care" medical testing devices that can be easily performed on patients without having to move them. The company already sells items such as printers, cameras and data recorders for medical use, but this would mark a new venture.

"Sony has sold such peripheral devices to medical device manufacturers in the past, but it will be a new business to sell directly to customers such as hospitals," Kitsukawa said in Tokyo.

He said that there was no firm timetable for sales of such devices, as they would need to go through a government approval process. Sony will market any new products primarily in the US.

Wider portfolio

Micronics, which Kitsukawa said has about 30 employees, lists funding from the US Army and National Institutes of Health, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on its website.

An expansion into medical devices would add to Sony's wide portfolio of businesses. Known primarily for its consumer electronics and video games, the company also has large movie and music divisions as well as a financial services arm.

Last year, Sony said it had acquired iCyt Mission Technology, which produces devices that can sort cells for use in stem cell and disease research. The company said at the time it was searching for healthcare applications for the technologies it had developed for consumer electronics, such as the optic technologies used on Blu-ray discs.