'The potential of digital pathology market is immense'

DQI Bureau
New Update

A large amount of valuable life sciences data used by researchers and medical

professionals is in the form of images. Life sciences researchers, pathologists

and radiologists are spending an even larger amount of time every day analyzing

these images for R&D and diagnosis in a laborious manual process. A Silicon

Valley-based start-up BioImagene, focusing on the digital pathology space, has

just secured $ 4.2 mn series B financing to explore the opportunity for a new

generation of image informatics products to enable digital pathology. Nanda

Kasabe of CyberMedia News spoke to BioImagene MD Abhijeet Gholap and BioImagene

director Gauri Naik, both of whom left lucrative careers in the US to come to

India and pursue their dreams to put their country on the global biotechnology



How would you describe the digital pathology market and how is your

company geared up to tackle this space?

Pathologists and life science researchers are inundated with valuable data

in the form of glass slides. The current pathological analysis process is

completely manual and causes time and cost inefficiencies leading upto millions

of dollars of expenditure associated with just slide analysis, diagnostics and

second opinions.

Our company is focused on eliminating this highly inefficient and laborious

pathological analysis process. BioImagene has developed sophisticated bio-image

analysis products built on "iHarness", a patent pending technology

platform that combines image analysis and pathological heuristics to provide

rapid research and diagnosis framework. These products empower pathologists with

a truly virtual and digital pathological analysis.

BioImagene MD Abhijeet Gholap and BioImagene director Gauri Naik 


The total digital pathology market is worth at least $350 mn. USA alone has

over 27,000 pathologists and 87,000 molecular biologists. With 700 new drug

targets under discovery and more than 2.9 mn confirmed cancer cases per year,

hundreds of millions of slides are to be analyzed annually. The potential is


How do your products enable pathologists to make better decisions?

Due to technological advancements, over 67% of patient data these days is in

the form of images. In May 2003, we developed our framework iHarness that would

assist pathologists in pathological diagnostics. Pathology is moving more and

more towards objectivity. However, nothing can match the human eye in its

ability to recognize complex patterns.

In cancer therapy, therefore, analyzing glass slides and deriving meaningful

results from them is a very critical task. We developed a system called Pathiam

(Pathological Image Analysis and Management). This software facilitates handling

of images captured from digital cameras, slide scanners and image databases. It

helps pathologists in detection, counting, classification and evaluation of

cells and tissues in the given image and caters to smarter diagnostics



The University of Nevada, while working on a NASA research project, became

our first customer for this product. The second major customer was US Labs in

California. Today, this system is being used in over 150 hospitals across the

US. HistoGrid-our second product, is a high-speed automated optical platform

and integrated software system. This is optimized for the acquisition,

processing and analysis of images from tissue micro arrays. The product provides

a fast and easy to use screening platform and is designed for identification and

validation of novel drug candidates at the R&D stage. The National Cancer

Institute was our first customer for this product.

So far, your market has been restricted to the US. Do you have any plans

of expanding into other promising markets?

We have recently closed $ 4.2 mn Series B financing led by Tuputele

Ventures, Authosis Inc. and ICCP Ventures. We plan to use these funds to launch

our products globally and expand sales and marketing efforts in North America,

Europe and Asia Pacific. Six distributors have been appointed in Europe in

countries including France, Netherlands, Spain and Italy. There are plans to

move to a web-enabled version on a .Net architecture.

All the product development will be handled out of the development center in

Pune. By April 2005, we would reach a strength of 100 from the existing 35

people at the Pune development center. We are currently looking out for

additional space.

We are in the process of acquiring a Silicon Valley based company in the

image management space. A decision on the acquisition of this four-year-old

company would possibly be completed in the next two weeks. If this works, we may

opt for another smaller round of funding.