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December 12, 2000
Launching Genome Medical Business toward 21st Century
Initial business to include development,
manufacture and sale of genetic analyzers and reagents,
plus design services for oligonucleotide probe sequences
* This news release is only for Japanese market.
Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. (President: Masatoshi Kishimoto) plans to begin supplying medical support systems and related services in the field of genetics, covering a range of activities from basic research to clinical testing, diagnosis, treatment and prevention from April 2001. To this end, the company has established "Genome Medical Business Project" which guides its business development in the general area of genetic medicine. Olympus aims to make this field a new major source of business, generating annual sales of 30 billion yen in five years. To generate increased growth, Olympus project team plans to commercialize the results of its internal R&D programs in this area, which will augmented by a number of strategic alliances with other companies and research institutions both in Japan and abroad. Alongside this, Olympus project team will also participate in national projects as part of our efforts to develop our business in this field.
Following its commencement in the second half of the 1980s, the pace of progress on the Human Genome Project has accelerated markedly in recent years, resulting in the steady unveiling of a clear blueprint for human life. The discoveries made have opened the door to fresh scientific endeavors in the field of genetic medicine. Research and development in this area is now pursuing a number of avenues that promise mankind exciting new medical advances based on this vast pool of human genetic knowledge: the identification of genes; the elucidation of their function; the development of effective medication based on drug response diagnosis (see Note 1) and other techniques; and the creation of more advanced genetic research methods. The steps being taken promise to usher in a medical revolution that could even herald the advent of genetic medicine that is "order-made" for specific disease conditions.
Olympus is ready to seize this opportunity to become a major player within the burgeoning market for genetic medical equipment and services. Fusing its years of experience with automation, systems, and optical technologies gained in the development of microscopes and optical analyzers with its recently acquired technical expertise in the analysis of DNA, genes and chromosomes as well as micromachine technology (developed within our Corporate Research Laboratory and Corporate Research Division), Olympus is developing a base of proprietary genome-related technology. It plans to leverage this through its existing sales and customer support service network for medical and scientific equipment. Directing the growth of this new business is the Genome Medical Business Project, which has been established under the auspices of the President.

Initially, Olympus plans to target the market for support services and equipment related to research in the field of genetic drug discovery and the development of clinical applications for the treatment of cancer. Current plans call for the business to center around the development, manufacture and sale of SNP analyzers (see Note 2) and gene expression analyzers (see Note 3). In addition, Olympus plans to offer design services for oligonucleotide probe sequences (see Note 4). In the near future, Olympus also plans to begin developing, manufacturing and marketing next-generation systems such as proteome analyzers (see Note 5) and ultra-high-speed DNA sequencers (see Note 6).
The analytical technology currently available in the field of genetic medicine is still in the process of being refined. In particular, there is much room for improvement in terms of precision and cost. Olympus plans to tackle and solve these problems using proprietary technology and the technical expertise it has acquired through its participation in national genome research projects. To accelerate progress, Olympus has entered into a number of strategic alliances with overseas companies and research institutions. These partners are outlined below.
Strategic Alliance Partners:
Name of partner company: EVOTEC BioSystems AG
Address: Schnackenburgallee 114, 22525 Hamburg, Germany
CEO: Dr. Karsten Henco
  Olympus basically agreed with German biotechnology firm EVOTEC BioSystems the joint development of next-generation analyzers that are based on EVOTEC's proprietary single molecule detection technologies (see Note 7).
Name of partner company: PamGene
Address: Grote Gent 2, 5261 BT Vught, The Netherlands
CEO: Tim Kievits
  Olympus and PamGene have worked together since the start of PamGene and now have decided to form a strategic partnership for realization of microarrays (see Note 8). As a part of this strategic partnership Olympus agreed to acquire a substantial amount of PamGene's equity.
Name of partner research institution: Karolinska Institute
Address: SE-17177 Stockholm, Sweden
Name of partner company: SMtec BioVision
Address: Electrum 212, S-16440 Kista, Sweden
CEO: Dr. Rudolf Rigler
  Olympus has entered into a basic agreement with Karolinska Institute and SMtec BioVision in Sweden to apply single molecule analysis techniques (see Note 9) to the development of ultra-high-speed DNA sequencers and other equipment designed for the field of genetic medicine.
In addition to these programs, Olympus is also involved in a number of ongoing joint R&D programs with various Japanese companies and research institutions. These programs aim to develop and commercialize next-generation genetic analysis and diagnosis technology.
The company is also actively working with researchers in the field of genetic medicine to develop better solutions for medical practitioners. These efforts should contribute toward the transformation of this field, shifting the focus from analysis and research toward clinical testing and diagnosis.
Technical Notes:
1.  Drug response diagnosis: differences arise in the effects of drugs on individuals due to genetic variation; this kind of analysis aims to diagnose how a person will respond to a particular drug.
2.  SNP analyzers: the phenomenon of Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) refers to differences of a single base pair within a DNA sequence of 300-500 base pairs; the study of such differences within the human population is expected to yield genetic markers that could signal a person's susceptibility to a certain disease, or else provide clues as to the likely response to a drug and its possible side-effect profile.
3.  Gene expression analyzers: systems for investigating the types and amounts of intracellular mRNA; mRNA, or messenger RNA, transmits the genetic information from DNA within cells so that it can be translated ("expressed") into proteins.
4.  Oligonucleotide probes: genetic probes formulated through DNA synthesis that consist of lengths of DNA containing 10 to 20 base pairs ("oligo-DNA").
5.  Proteome analyzers: systems for capturing and analyzing the entire set of proteins expressed within a cell (known as the "proteome"), rather than as individual proteins.
6.  Ultra-high-speed DNA sequencers: DNA sequencers that can analyze base-pair sequences at speeds 100 or more times that of conventional sequencers.
7.  Single molecule detection: a type of spectroscopy that measures the fluorescence properties of individual molecules directly, thereby making detection much more precise while eliminating unwanted noise.
8.  Microarrays: devices that can act as sensors for the detection and measurement of the expression and transmutation of large numbers of genes; they are actually detection probes with a spot of reference genes of no more than several hundred microns in diameter fixed on a glass slide or other substrate.
9.  Single molecule analysis: technology based on advanced optical measuring techniques that use confocal microscopy to identify single molecules that have been stained using fluorescent markers; different molecules can be identified individually through the reactions that take place inside microfluid reaction molds, which are made using microfabrication technology.
*Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. was changed to OLYMPUS CORPORATION as of October 1, 2003.
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