GE Healthcare And UPMC Launch Joint Venture To Digitize Pathology Images - InformationWeek
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GE Healthcare And UPMC Launch Joint Venture To Digitize Pathology Images

Onmyx aims to get pathologists to abandon glass slides and microscopes for the digital technology it says will improve diagnoses.

GE Healthcare and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which a decade or so ago each played separate roles in helping transform the practice of radiology from hard-copy film to digitized images -- are joining up to lend their various technology and clinical expertise in changing the world of pathology.

The two companies are announcing Thursday the launch of Omnyx, a joint venture focused on developing and selling advanced digital imaging systems for pathologists. UPMC and GE Healthcare are each investing $20 million in the new company, which will be headquartered in Pittsburgh, but have development offices in Piscataway, N.J. and Albany, N.Y.

The company is planning to hire 60 employees this year; some staff members will come from GE and UPMC, including several pathologists and technology experts from the medical center. Omnyx is also receiving $180,000 from the state of Pennsylvania to support its creation of at least 40 high-technology jobs over the next three years.

"Both organizations are tech savvy, one with best-in-class clinical experience, and the other with technology expertise globally -- it was a natural marriage," says Dan Drawbaugh, CIO of UPMC, who is one of two UPMC officials who are part of the new four-member executive board that will manage Omnyx. The other two board members are GE executives. Heading up Omnyx is CEO Gene Cartwright, who joined GE Healthcare 2-1/2 years ago after a 25-year career at lab company Abbott Diagnostics.

Pathologists have worked with glass slides and microscopes to examine tissue specimens for more than a century. Getting these medical experts to change a very fundamental part of their work isn't easy, especially if new processes add time to an already busy workflow where critical determinations about people's health are at stake.

At the same time, every year medical researchers uncover new important findings -- from discoveries about the human genome to proteomics -- potentially providing new clues that can help pathologists make better diagnoses.

It's a lot of work. A biopsy of a lymph node from a lung cancer patient, for instance, often has a pathologist looking for "three cells in 60 slides" of tissue slices, says Dr. George Michalopoulos, professor and chairman of the department of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh and pathologist at UPMC.

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