Bristol-Myers Squibb is wasting no time in starting its much-vaunted restructuring programme and has agreed to sell its medical imaging unit to a private equity firm for around $525 million.

BMS MI is being bought by New York-based Avista Capital Partners which only last week announced that it was acquiring Boston Scientific's fluid management and venous access businesses for $425 million. It is paying cash for the B-MS unit, which supplies medical imaging products for nuclear and ultrasound cardiovascular diagnostic imaging procedures. The latter’s best-selling product is Cardiolite, an imaging agent which had sales of over $400 million last year but now faces generic competition.

B-MS’ chief executive James Cornelius said that as his firm “continues to focus on evolving into a next-generation biopharma company”, the best way to maximise the value of the medical imaging business is to “reinvest the proceeds into our pharmaceutical R&D and commercialisation efforts". The deal
is expected to close by the end of January and BMS MI will operate as an independent company under a new name. It will be headed by Don Kiepert, former chairman of Point Therapeutics.

David Burgstahler, a partner at Avista, said that BMS MI is “widely recognised as a pioneer in cardiovascular imaging agents and for its strong technical manufacturing expertise”. He added that it is “a great fit for our healthcare portfolio”, as it addresses the industry's “increasing need for improved diagnostic tools”.

Triple-therapy HIV drug cleared in EU
Meantime, B-MS and partner Gilead Sciences said that the European Commission has approved the companies' new triple-therapy HIV drug Atripla, which combines B-MS’ Sustiva (efavirenz) and Gilead's Emtriva (emtricitabine) and Viread (tenofovir). The treatment, the first once-daily single dose regimen for adults with HIV, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in July 2006 and had third-quarter sales of $241.1 million.