Virtual technology still needs a local pathologist touch – Flagship Biosciences opens digital pathology services office in Boston area

| September 15, 2010

Who would have expected that the use of a truly virtual service would lead to customers wanting a pathologist nearby?

Companies such as Flagship Biosciences provide digital pathology services company where they receive glass slides, scan them, run image analysis with pathologist QA, and then have discussions with their biotech clients about what the results mean. This entire service is usually done without any travel or
face-to-face meetings. Flagship Biosciences operates a centralized data storage operation in a highly secure area in Northern Arizona (many of the largest data storage providers like are based in low-cost Arizona or Nevada). It shouldn't matter that most of their clients are on the other end of the nation, either in Cambridge, Massachusetts or the New Jersey/Philadelphia pharma corridor. It shouldn't matter…but it does.

For some time now they have found that despite the virtual nature of digital pathology, biotech researchers still want the pathologist "down-the-hall". Looking at a slide together and understanding what a particular efficacy or toxicology effect means. Much of this is trust in the pathologist. This is not a surprise, the technology is digital PATHOLOGY, not DIGITAL pathology — like bicycling, it is the cyclist that matters more than the bike.
To establish trust still means building relationships, and this is still easiest to happen with local interactions. Studies normally start with a few slides, discussing the best approaches for quantitation — optimizing stains, software techniques, histology preparation, etc. Only once both the researcher and pathologist are convinced the measurement approach is going to work do they move to larger studies. This means actually a lot of travel and personal interactions, so the customer knows what they are doing, and Flagship Biosciences knows that the biology to be measured is in line with their customer's therapeutic development goals. 
To leverage the technology's virtual advantages, but still maintain personal interaction, they are trying something new. If it works, it is a window into the pathologist's office of the future. Their new office in the Boston suburbs has three advantages — a board-certified pathologist, a technician and a scanner. The pathologist supervises all aspects of the work. The technician performs much of the laborious image analysis steps (especially with pattern recognition and large studies, there is a lot of manual work involved in QA'ing what the computer finds). The scanner is there locally to get the results back to the customer as soon as possible.
Perhaps your city my be the next site for a scanning biotech center if the Boston Flagship Biosciences experiment is successful.
Press release below: 

New office offers local access for Cambridge biotech companies to pathologist, technician, scanning and image analysis

Flagstaff, AZ – September 13, 2010 – Flagship Biosciences LLC, a provider of digital pathology services, has opened a local digital pathology office in the Boston suburbs to better support the growing demand for local quantitative histopathology services. The office is staffed by a board-certified pathologist, a scanning and image analysis technician, and digital pathology scanners.

“While digital pathology has the remarkable ability to remove geographic barriers, Flagship’s Cambridge area customers have expressed interest in local access to quantitative histopathology services,” said Dr. Frank Voelker, DVM, DACVP, who leads the new office. The ability for pharmaceutical researchers to sit down in person and discuss study designs and image analysis approaches in tissue with a local pathologist is very helpful. While our customers can view all of our tissue results remotely on each slide via a web-based portal, there is still no replacement for individual interaction in person.  Many of these studies contain hundreds of glass slides, and being able to teach and share information with our Cambridge area customers can be very useful.”

Dr. Frank Voelker leads the Boston Flagship office, and has had a distinguished career in pathology in the Boston area, including 12 years at Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, where he was founder and head of the Tissue Biomarker Laboratory and later Section Head of the Marker Localization and Assays Group.

“We believe this type of laboratory office for quantitative pathology work is the wave of the future, said Dr. David Young, DVM, DABT, DACVP, President of Flagship Biosciences. “Rather than pathologists setting up an office with a microscope and boxes of glass slides, the Flagship office includes a board-certified pathologist, with a digital workspace of image analysis tools and a web-based portal. A technician who helps with the scanning and image analysis is part of the pathologist’s office of the future”.

The new Flagship Office opened in September in Quincy, Massachussetts. It is part of a general trend of movement of biotech companies into the Boston suburbs.

About Digital Pathology

Digital pathology is the use of whole slide scanning rather than glass slides for analysis of tissue. The technology facilitates remote and distributed pathology environments, and is considered a transforming technology within the discipline of anatomic pathology. The use of whole slide images not only removes geographic barriers, but also allows for computer assisted quantitative analysis. This is an advantage that can be tremendously helpful in making efficacy and toxicity measurements more reproducible and accurate in pharmaceutical drug development, especially in discovery science and oncology companion diagnostics programs.

About Flagship Biosciences

Flagship Biosciences is a pathologist-owned company whose mission is to improve tissue assessment in pharmaceutical and medical device development. Flagship’s services include quantitative pathology assessment on-demand, low-cost digital pathology slide scanning, secure hosting, pathologist-supervised IHC and histology placement, and custom image analysis and companion diagnostics development. All services are reviewed and supervised by board-certified pathologists.


Category: Digital Pathology News, Histology, Pathology News

Comments are closed.