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September 27. 2013 9:43PM

Gamma Medica opens design, manufacturing plant in Salem


CALANDRA 

SALEM — A new company that is developing technology to improve breast cancer detection has opened a product design, engineering and manufacturing plant in Salem and expects to hire about 30 people in the next year.

Gamma Medica Inc. is leasing an 8,000-square-foot space at 12 Manor Parkway. The company develops, markets and services the LumaGEM MBI system, a digital molecular breast imaging system that helps radiologists detect early stage cancers that can be missed in women with dense breast tissue, according to Gamma Medica CEO Jim Calandra.

“Roughly 20 years ago, doctors were using gamma-ray cameras for cardiac imaging and they were seeing glowing objects nearby that were tumors,” Calandra said in a prepared statement. “They were being discovered by accident.”

Since then, technology has been developed that provides high-quality, high-resolution systems that can detect those tumors that were previously discovered by accident, if it all.

Through the noninvasive procedure, women whose mammograms were inconclusive can opt for the MBI testing, according to Calandra. The testing is about one-third the cost of an MRI and is used for further analysis of dense breast tissue.

Mammography is a great tool for detecting breast cancer, but it does have limitations, according to Dr. Robert Hannon of Salem Radiology.

“The development of molecular breast imaging, and its ability to identify even small early cancers is a most welcome addition,” Hannon said. He said the devices developed by Gamma Medica provide molecular breast imaging that is simple, safe and accurate.

“This technology will be a significant asset to physicians as they continue their efforts against this disease,” Hannon said.

Gamma Medica received $16 million in financing from the health-care investment firm Psilos Group Managers this summer. The funding will allow the company to expand commercialization of the LumaGEM MBI system and a companion product, the LumaGUIDE MBI-guided biopsy module, according to Calandra.

The decision to locate the company in Salem was based on more than the state’s low tax structure, Calandra said.

“There is a strong medical device presence here and we are close to Boston, where there is a prevalence of medical device companies along Route 128 and around the Merrimack Valley,” he said, adding that proximity to a number of world-renowned hospitals also played a role in the decision.

Michael Bergeron of the state’s division of economic development helped Gamma Medica locate in the state and agrees that Southern New Hampshire has become a hot spot for medical device companies.

“The company was looking to locate in a place where there is access to talented employees, universities and hospitals, as well as low operating costs,” Bergeron said.

aswift@newstote.com