The field of digital pathology has been in development for the better part of the last twenty years since James Bacus first invented a slide scanner for the detection of pre-invasive cancer and Dirk Soenksen, the founder of Aperio, dreamed of a future where pathologist used high-resolution monitors instead of microscopes. However, it wasn’t until the formation of the Digital Pathology Association (DPA) in 2009 that that the field arguably ‘arrived’. It was also about this time that MD Buyline began seeing activity related to the Digital Pathology field.
Despite the acceleration of the field, for the pathologist this move into the digital age may not come easy. It is difficult to make an institutional change away from looking through the microscopes to rely on and trust the digitized images from glass slides. There is also the additional dilemma of the collision between radiology and pathology. Radiology knows how to make images; pathology knows how to make slides. Although the two disciplines interact and overlap in many areas Radiology owns images and Pathology owns slides. To create Digital Pathology the marriage of Radiology and Pathology seems likely but this has not really happened yet.
Laboratory oriented companies on the other hand seem to have taken the leap into the market. The caution for them is that often times, the ones that take the first leap do not end up there in the very end as with the recent acquisition of Aperio by Leica.
Below is the short time line of what happened in the last few years.
- 2010 Roche acquires BioImagene and Virtuoso Digital Pathology Application software and the iScan family of automated digital slide scanners.
Unquestionably based on MD Buyline data the current market leaders are Ventana Medical Systems (a Roche Company) and Leica Microsystems (Biosystems) with Leica Biosystems as the current leader and Ventana Medical Systems a close second.
While digital pathology is definitely a growth market where buying, leasing, and renting is occurring, it is mostly interest in the field that is pushing it forward. Some have questioned the conspicuous absence of the traditional imaging companies like GE or Philips. While slow to gain entry into the field, they are gearing up to possibly make a big splash in the market. I expect we’ll soon see this market and their presence in it began to take off.