GE partnership seeks to advance
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The University of
Pittsburgh Medical Center and General Electric Co.’s Healthcare division
are each putting $20 million into a partnership to bring pathology, the
study of diseases and their causes, into the 21st century.
The new company, Omnyx LLC, will be based in Pittsburgh and is projected
to employ at least 40 people within three years. The state of
Pennsylvania is providing $180,000 to help with job creation.
The first product to be developed will be a “virtual microscope” that
would allow clinicians to analyze slides from computer monitors,
interpret results and share information instantly with experts anywhere
in the world.
Once the digital pathology equipment is commercialized, expected within
two years, UPMC wants to capture 25 percent of what’s estimated to be a
$2 billion worldwide market. The medical center will be Omnyx’s first
(On a related note, Toronto’s Michener Institute, a healthcare
technology education and training centre, is devising a digital
microscopy solution that acquires high-resolution images from slides and
stores the images in a repository. The images can be shared among
clinicians and incorporated in a patient’s electronic health record. The
Michener is building the application in partnership with Unis Lumin,
Cisco, Aperio and IMPAC/Elekta. For more information, see:
Meanwhile, GE and the University of Pittsburgh hope their solution,
including hardware and software, will transform one of healthcare’s last
manually performed, slow diagnostic procedures that relies on
microscopes and glass slides to diagnose diseases. It could result in a
more efficient procedure and higher quality results.
“Digital pathology has been coming for the last 15 to 20 years,” said
Jared Schwartz, pathology and laboratory medicine director at
Presbyterian Healthcare in Charlotte, and president of the College of
American Pathologists. “Once you can digitize an image, you can move it,
transport it – things you can’t do now with a microscope and slides.
It’s bringing the microscope into the 21st century.”
Omnyx’s goal is to perform a scan every 30 to 40 seconds.
“UPMC has been very interested in digital pathology, looking for
solutions for processing and viewing pathology slides,” said Charles
Bogosta, president of UPMC’s International and Commercial Services
Division. “We first had discussions with General Electric probably 1-1/2
or 2 years ago, after we discovered they were looking at the same
GE and UPMC have appointed the former president of GE Healthcare’s
molecular diagnostics business, Gene Cartwright, as Omnyx’s chief
executive. Omnyx is the first stand-alone company in GE’s history to be
formed with an academic medical center such as UPMC. “We basically are
targeting medium-size, 150 beds and more, to the top-end hospital market
worldwide,” Cartwright said. “The smaller, independent hospital isn’t
where the money is.”
“The challenge from the pathology point of view was how to scan and
store the information,” said George K. Michalopoulos, professor and
chairman of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh and a UPMC
pathologist. “With the digital revolution, you’re able to use the
computer monitor like a microscope and convert the glass slide to a
digital file,” he said. “We’re excited because when digitized, the
information can become part of the hospital work flow.”
Bogosta said UPMC and GE are discussing as many as eight other ideas
Omnyx could tackle.
Omnyx won’t be the first company to bring digital pathology to the
medical community. Aperio Technologies, a small company founded nine
years ago and headquartered about 35 miles north of San Diego, states on
its Web site that it has installed more than 375 digital systems in 25
countries, including more than two-thirds of the top-15 rated U.S.
hospitals, leading academic medical centers and reference laboratories,
and two-thirds of the top 15 pharmaceutical companies.
“Aperio is a nice little company, and it’s the current market leader,”
Cartwright said. “But GE is a software company, and Aperio just can’t
keep up with the high scan through-put customers need.”
Bogosta said the deal with GE is an example of UPMC’s effort to develop
joint ventures and make direct investments in companies focused on
developing and marketing new technologies.
The medical center, for example, has formed relationships with IBM,
Alcatel-Lucent and Cerner. In a joint venture with software maker
CombineNet, it formed CombineMed, which deals with how hospitals’
healthcare supplies are purchased.