CEO Profile: Glencoe Software’s Jason Swedlow

| January 4, 2016

This is the third in a series of CEO short interviews about their views on their company, the digital pathology market, lessons learned and perhaps a little insight into their business principles.  My personal thanks to Dr. Swedlow and the Glencoe Software team for their time and efforts to complete this interview and provide some insights into their company’s vision, lessons learned and personal insights of their CEO!

What is your vision for your company?
We aim to be the world’s leading provider of software platform technologies in biological and biomedical imaging. Our Bio-Formats and OMERO Plus software platforms dominate the light microscopy and high content screening markets, and we are now seeing increasing success in the research digital pathology market.  
As you look back on the past (five) years of your work experience, what one thing would you have done differently?
In 2014, we made a commitment to actively grow our commercial sales and marketing activities. The result has been a massive transformation in the opportunities and growth of our company.  We should have done it sooner.
In what ways is the digital pathology market unique from other industries you have worked in?
The digital pathology market has both research and clinical sides. This is, at least in our experience unusual— a  single technology and set of applications potentially has incredibly broad impact.  Also, it is the commercial providers who are driving the development of new methods and modes of image acquisition.  In most other domains we are aware of, academic biologists, engineers and physicists drive the development of new imaging technologies. 
How is it similar?
Each research and clinical domain that uses imaging has to make the transition from images as descriptors and representations to images as quantifiable assays. This is challenging, and certainly takes some time, as new methodologies are developed, validated and ultimately delivered to the market.
Focusing on Glencoe’s technology, it seems every domain has to learn that it needs modern, enterprise–scale databasing technology to handle its datasets and can’t really scale using files on a file system. We’ve seen this over and over again.
What does the digital pathology market look like in 2016?
2016 will be an incredibly exciting year. The potential easing of Class III PMA restrictions on digital pathology systems in the US is driving a lot of excitement in the field. We are seeing new and quite diverse applications of machine learning technologies to digital pathology.  Ultimately, the result will be the availability of more published studies and data that define and validate these technologies.  2016 will be an important year for making digital pathology a routine application for research and clinical medicine.
What challenges remain for digital pathology adoption?
Ignoring the obvious regulatory concerns and issues, it seems likely that images of pathology specimens will soon be routinely used in decision support in research and clinic domains. This means that a human pathologist views the images on a monitor or maybe even a mobile device alongside other data and test results and makes a diagnosis and/or signs out a patient. The next step will be the routine application of automatic analytic tools that perform as well or better than the human pathologist, using quantitative analysis of whole slide image and other data. Multi-parametric, machine learning, and deep learning algorithms are now well-established in many domains of data analysis. They certainly will work in digital pathology on the defined sets of data. Whether they can be applied more globally, for example to all cases processed in a large metropolitan hospital, a large, distributed health network or a nationalised health service has yet to be determined. Paradoxically it may be that these methods can only be deployed on defined populations, or across a limited number of centres that have common sample processing protocols, imaging systems, etc.
Personally, I don’t think cost is a barrier to adoption— in the long term. It is doubtful that the summed costs of imaging systems, sample processing, data analysis, management and archiving will be cheaper than human pathologists reading glass slides. However, just like every other field in research and clinical practice, the arrival of slide scanning will drive new innovations— biomarkers, analytic tools, and new imaging technologies– that report the structure and molecular composition of the pathological specimen, and the benefit of these will drive the adoption of this new technology. This evolution has happened in every application of imaging in the life and biomedical sciences and it will happen again in pathology. 
What have you learned from working in this space that you did not anticipate when you started?
The incredibly important role the pathologist plays in modern health practice and the challenges that each pathologist faces in maintaining sufficient throughput and quality in every day practice.
How would you describe the culture in your company and has it changed over the past (five) years?
It’s incredibly dynamic, focussed, distributed and fluid. We don’t work from a physical office— keeps costs down and let’s us hire the best people wherever they are. There is constant communication, and almost daily, a sense of building and achieving that is incredibly rewarding for everyone.  
Over the last 5 years— we’re working with more customers in more domains, so the impact of what we are doing just keeps growing. It’s really exciting.
How would you describe yourself in one word?
What did you want to be when you “grew up”?
I, like most kids reared on Apollo launches, wanted to be an astronaut.  I still do.
What song best describes your work ethic?
Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
Describe the top of your desk.
A Mac Mini, a 27” monitor, a Logitech camera, and a Blueball directional microphone. We spend a lot of time on video conf calls, and good video and audio is key.
Define cooperation.
A healthy mix of empathy, shared goals, respect and a whole lot of listening.
Which kitchen utensil would you be?
Espresso machine.
A penguin walks through your office door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?
“I’m your new sysadmin, and I don’t do Windows.”  
What newspapers do you read on a regular basis?
The Guardian, Financial Times, The Register, Slashdot, and the Dundee Courier.
On a scale from one to ten, rate me as an interviewer. 
OK, so John Stewart would be a 10, so on that scale, you’re an 8. That’s pretty great.  

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Category: Advocacy, Business, Current Affairs, Digital Pathology News, Pathology News

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