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Reasons Why DVM Pathologists Are Adopting Digital Pathology Faster Than MD Pathologists

Posted Jun 24 2010 12:00am

This is the second portion of guest blog note written by Steve Potts, PhD. The first was posted yesterday (see: Veterinary Pathologists Adopting Digital Pathology Faster than MDs ). Steve is the CEO of Flagship Biosciences, a pathologist-owned CRO and provider of digital pathology services in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

I would propose the following reasons why the adoption of digital pathology among DVM pathologists is faster than among their MD counterparts:

  • Veterinary pathologists have benefited from the development of a strategic, forward-looking vision by pathologists working in executive management at the various pharmaceutical companies. These individuals are required to manage studies generating hundreds, if not thousands, of slides each and requiring review by pathologists within groups and across groups. Many of the multi-site implementations of digital pathology have been driven by top-down decision-making on the basis of careful planning and ROI calculations by these executives. In short, the decisions to adopt digital pathology have not been made casually or informally.
  • Quantitative data has always been a powerful driver in pharmaceutical research. Because the cost to bring a drug compound to market is measured in hundreds of millions of dollars, strategic go/no-go decisions are generally based on such quantitative data (e.g. real numbers on beta cell mass changes for a proposed diabetes compound or objective vascular changes for an anti-angiogenic compound). Digital pathology delivers the requisite quantitative information for the industry.
  • Numerous pathologist-led committees have developed standards for imaging in the veterinary pathology societies, including ACVP , and STP , and PhRMA . This leadership in standards has provided strong incentives for the rank-and-file DVM pathologists to adopt the technology.
  • A small core group of veterinary pathologists have provided leadership in identifying new applications for digital technology and subsequently demonstrated them to their peers in conference settings. Some examples include Bob Dunstan from Biogen Idec , Frank Voelker with preclinical image analysis from Novartis and Flagship Biosciences , David Young with companion diagnostics at OSI Pharmaceuticals , Sam Machotka from Merck with preclinical workflow requirements, and Gary Knutsen of Systems Pathology with automated toxicity screening.
  • Veterinary pathologists, particularly at pharma companies, have benefited from some talented informatics leaders within their companies who have planned and delivered successful global deployments of digital pathology systems. Even, or maybe especially, in companies ranging up to 100,000 employees, a single person leading these efforts has made the difference. Examples of such leaders and presentations include Jim Deed s from Novartis, Xiaoyou Ying from Sanofi-Aventis, and Beverly Maleeff from GSK .
  • Broad conversion to the technology will require a substantial time commitment and most MD pathologists are already challenged by their current daily work commitments. What is required now is a broad swath of MD pathologists coming on-line and demonstrating that digital pathology is an important technical component for the practice of the field. When this tipping point occurs, many more of them will be able to replicate the earlier digital footsteps of their veterinary pathologist colleagues
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