GE Healthcare's Pascale Witz seeks better climate for Dx industry growth

Pascale Witz was one of the thousands of life sciences executives at the BIO 2013 International Convention in Chicago this week, and she was in full-scale networking mode.

The president and CEO of GE Healthcare's medical diagnostics division fielded several meetings every day with potential business partners in addition to a number of impromptu sessions, largely at the company's booth on the massive convention floor. 

There was certainly plenty to talk about. Her group handles "precision diagnostics," which includes molecular diagnostics, genetic sequencing services, and products such as flutemetamol, a PET imaging agent designed to help diagnose Alzheimer's disease that is now awaiting European and U.S. regulatory approval. And Witz is working hard to build the company's diagnostics brand in an era when diagnostics are still being defined, and the sector struggles with issues including reimbursement and early-stage funding.

She says that diagnostics are misunderstood about their evolving role in healthcare.

Pascale Witz--Courtesy of GE

"Everybody thinks when you pay the price of a drug [today], you pay the price of manufacturing, but it is also research and development for diagnostics," she told FierceMedicalDevices. "What it means is you need to define new business models that will value diagnostics in preportion to clinical benefits."

According to Witz, diagnostics are increasingly playing a role in a patient's total medical care, with 60% of medical decisions influenced by diagnostic tests. But that trend is also producing demand for diagnostic tests that are increasingly complex (see molecular diagnostics and more). And so, Witz said, there needs to be an expansion in research and clinical studies to meet the need, as well as "more business models that will reward innovation" in the space.

She said GE is trying to be a part of the conversation about how to get there, and that the company "will actually look for ways to influence the emergence of new business models so that diagnostics are valued to the proportion that they bring." Witz, without offering more details, says those new approaches are very much in flux.

"We are still in search of what makes more sense, evaluating different approaches with different types of partners," she said. "At this stage we don't have an example of new business models. But we are actively working with some of the partners to see how we can provide incentive to the overall diagnostics industry."

Another advance that will help--more transparency in public and private reimbursement decisions, and Witz said she would call for that as much during a BIO panel discussion on the issue.

The gist: "we need more clarity and transparency on reimbursement pathways," Witz explained, noting that the issue is big on both sides of the Atlantic but particularly in the U.S considering its large market. -- Mark Hollmer (email | Twitter)

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