Olympus has acquired privately held Bacus Laboratories Inc (BLI), opening the door for future technology that could one day allow millions of medical opinions now formulated by physicians using traditional optical microscopes to be facilitated by digital imaging.

The acquisition brings together microscope hardware provider Olympus and BLI, which provides virtual microscope slide technology and microscope software for clinical laboratory applications.  By securing BLI’s patents and software capabilities as part of the transaction, Olympus has gained access to virtual microscope slide technology and telemedicine, enabling the company to offer the first and only comprehensive, one-stop solution for laboratories seeking a comprehensive virtual microscope slide system.

Virtual microscope slides allow professionals to review biopsies and other pathology images without handling traditional glass slides.  Through telemedicine physicians can share highly detailed microscope images over the Internet for long-distance consultation.  While both technologies are widely anticipated among health care professionals, neither has been used much up to now due to limited resources.

"The combination of Olympus microscope systems and BLI software could potentially bring pathology into the next century. This is a watershed moment in which a giant industry turns a corner and moves toward a new way of operating," says Stephen S. Tang, group vice president and general manager, Life Science, Olympus America. "Being able to digitize slides, share analysis, and attach images to a patient’s medical file is the next step we have been waiting for.  It paves the way for more informed decisions by physicians, better-served patients, and enhanced teaching and training."

More than $6.5 billion in pathology testing was performed in the United States in 2003, and the market continues to grow as testing increases and the population ages.  Medical testing is a factor in more than 60% of the professional decisions that physicians make.

Medical slides contain so much high-resolution information that it can take thousands of typical digital pictures to reproduce all the data in one image, and powerful computers to store the data.  Combining Olympus and BLI technologies in one solution can help streamline the process, improve speed of reporting, save substantial expense, and enhance patient care.  Virtual microscope slide technology also will aid hospitals in fulfilling the President’s mandate to have comprehensive patient electronic medical record systems in place by the year 2014.

"This exciting acquisition is the first of its kind for Olympus America, putting us in the lead in virtual slide and clinical digital microscopy," says F. Mark Gumz, president and chief operating officer, Olympus America Inc.  "It is the latest in a series of acquisitions and investments that Olympus has made globally over the past few years as part of our worldwide strategy to develop, ally with, or acquire technologies that the company believes will be vitally important in how health care is delivered in the future."

BLI becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of Olympus America, retaining its name.  The company’s integration into the operations of Olympus’ Scientific Equipment Group (SEG), part of Olympus Life Science, will start immediately.  All BLI employees will retain their positions and continue to report to BLI management. James Bacus, president of BLI, and James Bacus, Jr, vice president of BLI, will report to Olympus management.  BLI’s licenses and other business relationships will remain mostly unaffected.

"It has long been my goal to partner with a company that has the strategic vision to help our country reach the potential of a new era in medicine.  Olympus is that visionary company," says Bacus, Sr.  "Virtual microscopy, telemedicine and other digital technologies are the future of medical care in this country.  Now, we are the only company in the world that has the hardware, software, and expertise to help bring digital pathology imaging to its full potential to benefit human health."

Among the products to be sold by the combined company is the comprehensive BLISS system, designed for a single workstation, which combines an Olympus microscope, service and training with BLI software.  BLI is also the leading provider of virtual microscope slides and Internet server software in medical education. These products are available immediately.  Future products may include systems to help larger laboratories digitize their entire pathology suite.