Proscia is a company using AI to aid in cancer diagnosis
Steven Loeb speaks with David West, co-founder and CEO of Proscia, a company using AI to aid in cancer diagnosis.
Our goal is to understand tech breakthroughs radically changing healthcare: the way we screen, diagnose and treat conditions and measure outcomes. And whether tech is helping or hurting our well-being physically and mentally.
Highlights from the interview:
- Pathologists are really in the center of medicine, and they are crucial to everything that we do in determining treatments and understanding, not only whether or not a patient has cancer, but how bad that cancer is. They do this right now using microscopes and glass slides, the same technology that's been around since the first pathologist started looking at tissue and more or less the same technology that you'd see in an eighth grade biology classroom. Pathologists are in short supply, we need more them; cancer burdens are increasing, diagnostic burdens are increasing, and yet the pathologist workforce is decreasing.
- Silicon Valley is no longer ignoring pathology: over the past three or so years, Proscia and other companies have been able to attract a tremendous amount of funding and that's a testament to the change in appetite in the market and the recognition that the future opportunities that are going to not only have a really high impact on humanity, but also be really lucrative investments, are going to be ones that are in healthcare.
- Many other fields in medicine, such as radiology, for example, have been able to work remotely; radiology has been digital for over 20 years. That same opportunity didn't exist until very recently for pathologists, and it has been a very physical, brick and mortar discipline for a long time because there is a physical aspect of it: you still have to prepare tissue. This technology wasn't available for diagnostic use in the United States until 2017 when the first scanner was approved by the FDA and that was really a seminal moment for the field because it showed to the community that this technology is diagnostic quality. The scanners, which take a physical glass slide and scan them into a roughly gigabyte or gigabyte-plus size image, are of sufficient quality for any lab to adopt.
- Proscia’a software platform has two versions: one is a diagnostic that's geared towards diagnostic labs and then one is a research version. The research version is used by mostly large pharma companies and academic institutions that are doing pathology research. They're critically dependent on this technology for all stages of drug development; they deal with many of the same problems that a diagnostic lab would have and they've adopted this technology before the diagnostic labs because it doesn't have that same regulation. The diagnostic diagnostic version of our product is a regulated medical device.
- The first application that the company built was DermAI for skin cancer because skin is the largest sub-specialty of pathology by volume. It represents around a quarter to a third of diagnostic volume. The range of diagnoses within skin pathology or dermatopathology vary greatly so if you can best optimize the pathologist’s workflow to focus first on the cases that are highest risk, you can greatly improve the workflows of organizations.
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