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VOL. 125 | NO. 4 | Thursday, January 7, 2010

Christie to Keep VeinViewer Operations in Memphis

By Tom Wilemon

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Christie Digital Systems, the new owner of the VeinViewer technology, will keep jobs associated with the medical imaging device in Memphis, company officials said Wednesday.

Christie announced it had acquired “substantially all the assets” of Luminetx Corp. and will create a new medical products business called Christie Medical Holdings Inc. Luminetx shareholders approved the acquisition last month.

George Pinho, previously the company’s senior director for business product development, is now the president of Christie Medical.

Pinho is in Memphis this week but will oversee operations here from the Christie Digital Systems Canada Inc. headquarters in Kitchener, Ontario. The company also has a U.S. headquarters in Cypress, Calif.

“We’re excited by the potential of this acquisition,” Pinho said. “Christie’s goal is to diversify into emerging markets and we saw a unique opportunity to enter the medical imaging industry.”

The VeinViewer allows medical practitioners to easily see subcutaneous veins by projecting a real-time image of their locations onto the surface of the skin. Christie, a global visual technologies company that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ushio Inc. of Japan, has expertise in projectors and visual technologies used for entertainment and educational purposes.

Medical imaging will be a new product line for the company.

“Our combined teams will create exciting growth opportunities through our collective capabilities and complementary technologies,” Pinho said.

Although the headquarters for the newly created Christie Medical Holdings Inc. will not be in Memphis, that does not mean jobs will be moved from here, said Dorina Belu, senior manager of media and communications for Christie.

“There is no change to the service, support and distribution of the VeinViewer business,” Belu said. “Customers are going to get the continued service, support, distribution and all of that, which began in Memphis. There is no change to that at all.”

Herb Zeman, a now-retired professor from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, invented the VeinViewer technology and founded Luminetx. The technology was heralded as one of “the Most Amazing Inventions of 2004” in Time magazine.

But the company was hurt by management turnover, boardroom conflicts, the downfall of one of its major investors, Stanford Financial Group, and legal fights with a new competitor.

Luminetx was running out of operating cash and was losing money when shareholders approved its acquisition. Christie, which had already loaned Luminetx $1.5 million, paid $15 million for the company and forgave the loan.

It did not acquire all of Luminetx’s patented technologies. Luminetx shareholders retained the company’s Snowflake Technologies Corp. subsidiary, which is developing a biometric identification product.

Luminetx last month terminated the employment of Richard Kindberg, who had been the company’s chief executive officer for nine months, when the board of directors voted in favor of the acquisition. Kindberg has filed suit against the company because of his dismissal.

Chris Schnee, who took over as interim chief executive officer, will remain on board with Christie Medical Holdings Inc. He will serve as general manager and vice president of sales and marketing.

Schnee said new opportunities arise with the new ownership.

“Christie’s extensive history and expertise in visual displays will offer exciting opportunities and applications for the VeinViewer technology platform,” Schnee said. “Christie’s global presence and world-class manufacturing and engineering know-how in visual display technology will enable us to expand our products into multiple new markets and to continue advancements in bettering patient care the world over. We look forward to finding new and better ways to improve health care delivery.”

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