GE acquires University MRI technology

The University will pocket about one-third of the gained revenue.

Kate Raddatz

A new MRI technique developed by University of Minnesota researchers was acquired by General Electric Co. earlier this month.

GE Health Care announced in early April it plans to manufacture devices that use technology developed by Steady State Imaging, a group of University researchers. SSI researches and creates MRI technologies including the SWIFT method.

The SWIFT method has been in the MRI research spotlight for its potential to capture images of the body where normal MRIs donâÄôt typically function, like near the lungs. GE Health Care devices using the SWIFT method will be better able to image ligaments, tendons and other body tissues.

SWIFT was developed by a team of researchers led by Michael Garwood at the UniversityâÄôs Center for Magnetic Resonance Research.

GE Health Care has not yet disclosed the financial terms of the deal, but the University will receive royalties and other compensation.

Vice President for Research at the University Tim Mulcahy said the University will pocket about one-third of the revenue, which will be used to reinvest in graduate research. Mulcahy said the agreement would help boost the UniversityâÄôs brand, both in the Legislature and in the medical equipment field.

âÄúIt will be a very strong asset for the University,âÄù Mulcahy said. âÄúOn a reputational standpoint, folks in the MRI field will recognize the product immediately.âÄù

Mulcahy added that while the University will provide the technology and research for GE, it is not selling a product.

âÄúThe University makes the breakthrough discoveries which have the potential to benefit the product of life, but we donâÄôt make products âÄî GE will make those,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs great validation of the quality of work we do to see the full promise of
technology.âÄù

Vice president of GE Health CareâÄôs Global MR business, Jim Davis said in a statement that the acquisition of SSI would help increase access and decrease costs for MRIs. 

âÄúWe are excited at the prospect of implementing SSIâÄôs technology,âÄù Davis said. âÄú[WeâÄôll] continue to invest in innovations that will have an impact on our customers and their patients.âÄù

SSI was licensed through the Office of Technology Commercialization in 2006, five years after its creation.

A majority of funding for SSI comes from Minnesota investors, many of whom have taken advantage of the recent Minnesota Angel Tax Credit Program, which provides incentives for investors to put money into a startup company focused on new
technologies.

The CMRR laboratory has been doing biomedical research at the University since it opened in 1991.

Mulcahy called the partnership with GE âÄúfantasticâÄù and said it will help bring University research to a public platform.

âÄúOverall it reflects what we should be about as a research University,âÄù he said.  âÄúWe want to ultimately benefit the quality of life and the long-term process of this acquisition is just a part of that.âÄù