Breakthrough in digital pathology from GE and UPMC

9 Nov 2010

Omnyx, a joint venture of GE Healthcare and UPMC, is initiating clinical research testing of a breakthrough digital pathology platform. The company expects it to help transform the 125-year-old practice of pathologists using glass slides to prepare a biopsy for diagnosis of a disease using a microscope.

By digitizing the slides and the corresponding workflow, the Omnyx technology is intended to do what a traditional microscope cannot — unite an entire pathology department and improve collaboration, communication and efficiency, with the potential for better patient care.

When the slide is digitised the image is stored on a central server, making it accessible to a diagnostics service either within the hospital or remotely.

Omnyx has initiated research testing of the technology at three sites in the US and one in Canada. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Montefiore Medical Center, Stanford University Medical Center and University Health Network are currently installing, testing and providing feedback on the research Omnyx platform, and will collect data for an FDA submission.

GE Healthcare and UPMC have invested US$40 million to-date. The digital pathology market is expected to grow to US$2 billion over the next several years.

The breakthrough technology is part of GE Healthcare’s US$6bn healthymagination initiative to improve cost, quality and access in healthcare, and another example of GE Healthcare’s commitment to investing in innovative bioscience technologies.

The Omnyx joint venture was inspired in 2008 by a ground-breaking discovery at GE Healthcare’s Global Research Center, where scientists developed a patented dual-camera scanning technology that can digitize glass pathology slides at a fast pace without loss of optical quality.

The new technology — which will be a truly integrated digital pathology solution — is a combination of patented scanners that boost scan speed by using one camera to scan the slide and a second to simultaneously focus, new imaging software for highest-quality images, and an information technology backbone that digitizes a pathology department’s workflow.

The digital tools are designed to transform the practice of pathologists using glass slides, microscopes and manual paperwork to advance patient cases.

“The Omnyx technology was created by pathologists, for pathologists,” said Gene Cartwright, CEO of Omnyx. “It is a uniquely integrated digital pathology technology to digitize the entire pathology workflow, and is expected to help improve efficiency, enhance quality and bring about faster diagnoses for patients.

"Pathologists are a cornerstone in the diagnosis and treatment plans for patients, and the development of this system has the potential to further enhance their role. We expect that Omnyx will provide a route for the field to adopt digitization, thereby reaping the cost savings, increased access and quality benefits that other fields, like radiology, have enjoyed since going digital.”

“Through healthymagination, we want to marry what’s possible with technology with what’s needed to deliver better healthcare to more people,” said Mike Barber, vice president of healthymagination, GE Healthcare. “By partnering with UPMC we are combining our technical innovation with UPMC’s expertise and clinical insight to modernize and bring pathology into the 21st century — accelerating processes, cutting diagnosis times and delivering relief to anxious patients, overworked pathologists and resource-challenged hospitals.”

“Today, studies show an increased need for collaboration in diagnosis in pathology. Given the inherent collaborative limitations of glass slides — the fact that I have to ship it to someone else to review — these consultations with colleagues are difficult, time-intensive and limited,” said George Michalopoulos, professor and chairman of the Department of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and pathologist at UPMC.

“An integrated digital pathology solution will allow pathologists to quickly share cases with the click of a button, increasing collaboration among specialists and access for rural hospitals.”

“Digitizing pathology is the next big step for the industry — it’s critical in revolutionizing the practice to keep up with the digital age,” said Sylvia Asa, pathologist-in-chief and medical director at the Omnyx research site University Health Network (Canada).

“At the University Health Network, in addition to being more efficient, we will be able to collaborate in new ways, which will be exciting for our doctors and good for our patients who deserve the same level of medical care regardless of their location.”


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