My Visit to Huron Digital Pathology

| February 14, 2017

Growing up in Chicago, Canada was a place that my father told me provided “virgin” lakes for fishing we would visit before anyone else (supposedly). Canada also supplied the United States with hockey players and acid rain while we provided them baseball players and a lot of people fishing in virgin lakes buying their Canadian nightcrawlers to do so. A lot has changed since then. The Montreal Expos left as did the Winnipeg Jets (then they came back a few years ago) and even The Great One moved to sunny California and drove expansion in the National Hockey League south of the border.  Acid rain isn’t a term used much anymore.

But something else has been happening with our friendly neighbors to the north, particularly in the area of digital pathology and specifically at Huron Digital Pathology based in Waterloo, Ontario.  For many years Huron, has been a leader manufacturing reliable whole slide scanners that among their other attributes, could accommodate slides beyond the typical 1×3 (inches) format but also accommodate larger 2×3 slides and larger formats, up to 6×8 for whole slide sections. Their award-winning technology has also been recognized for their expertise in fluorescence scanning with incredible image resolution.

Your roving reporter recently visited the company’s headquarters and met with some of its leadership to see what is in store for 2017 and beyond. While many hardware manufacturers have historically started with selling and marketing to pre-clinical and research and development organization, Huron is making a renewed emphasis on clinical implementations in the United States and Canada.  While the regulatory environment is still clouded in uncertainty, Huron believes whole slide imaging has numerous applications for clinical use short of primary diagnosis and will be poised to have a significant place in that environment when clarity is provided by regulators concerning clinical diagnoses in the practice of pathology.

With its proprietary TissueScope family of scanners, and TissueSnap workflow accessory, Huron is well-suited for high-throughput, high quality workflows for the clinical laboratory market.  While onsite I was able to appreciate the care and effort that goes into every product they produce to insure the images produced are not only of incredible resolution but can meet the demand of a high volume clinical environment.  The management at Huron also understands that in order to be of value, the solutions have to be scalable to meet the traditional cost barriers to adoption of digital pathology. While reimbursements in anatomic pathology have remained mostly flat since the prominent cuts in 2014, the expectation is that reimbursements for biopsy work, the majority of pathology services in the United States will not rise significantly and there may be further cuts to technical reimbursements according to many prognostications.

In addition to being a hardware manufacturer, Huron also provides slide scanning services for projects small and large, bright field and fluorescence, from 1 to 40x magnification as a professional service to clients in need of rapid turnaround.

Huron Digital Pathology is based in Waterloo, Ontario, now known as the “Silicon Valley of the North”. The amount of innovation and investment from a vibrant academic community and entrepreneurial spirit only surpassed by Canadian spirit for hard work and collaboration is thriving in Waterloo. Having attended college in Michigan, we had to drive south to get into Canada, but honestly never made it east of Windsor, Ontario to watch “Hockey Night in Canada” on weekends. Perhaps I should have kept driving to this area settled by immigrants in the early 1800s by Mennonites from Pennsylvania and German settlers.

AppleFrittersThe community today is anchored by a strong academic and technology-based environment with the University of Waterloo and many institutions such as the “Institute for Quantum Computing” with a strong commitment by the provincial government, and successful entrepreneurs, to facilitate innovation and enterprise.  The CEO of Huron Digital Pathology, Patrick Myles, was kind enough to give me a tour of the area, showing me its roots in the Mennonite community with a great lunch at the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market, which probably can lay claim to the best apple fritters in the world.

We also explored the Communitech Hub where largely millennials with University of Waterloo smarts and business development specialists can come together and help each other bring new technologies to market.  One example of this was a product developed by Thalmic Labs that can respond to muscle movements.

The company was started by a University of Waterloo graduate who focused on computer hardware and started his first company at the age of 12.  He is one of a dozen examples.  Not to be outdone, large companies such as, SAP, Google, Oracle, Intel, McAfee, Electronic Arts and Agfa all have a presence in Waterloo as well with prominent buildings throughout town.

So, watch for Huron Digital Pathology at USCAP (booth #610) and beyond this year and beware not of acid rain from Ontario but innovation!


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Category: Anatomic Pathology, Clinical Laboratories, Device Manufacturers, Digital Pathology News, General Healthcare News, International, Laboratory Informatics, Pathology News, Personal, Vendor products, Videos, Web/Tech, Whole slide

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