GE Healthcare has announced its intention to invest $20m in radical new technology, which will allow laboratory research results to be transmitted and shared amongst doctors worldwide setting to define a new age in patient care.
The deal, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), is a bold move for the medical division of the General Electric conglomerate, which may see this as an opportunity to gain a foothold in a $2bn industry.
While GE Healthcare, a division of Fairfield-based GE, already manufactures imaging for radiology and cardiology, UPMC are relatively new to the game. Nevertheless they expect to capture at least 25 per cent of the market.
Terms of the partnership would see each party contributing $20m to form a new company - Omnyx, LLC, with the sole intention of bringing to the arena a wealth of hardware and software for patient diagnoses.
The hope is that Omnyx can transform one of health care's last manually performed, slow diagnostic procedures that rely on microscopes and glass slides to diagnose diseases. It could result in a more efficient procedure and higher quality results.
Details of the first product were sketchy but will likely to be a "virtual microscope" that would permit doctors and researchers to analyse slides from computer monitors, interpret results and share information instantly with experts worldwide.
The benefit to patients would be obvious with a reduction in medical errors, improved turnaround time for lab results and integrating pathology information as part of the patient's electronic medical record distinct possibilities.
Additional advantages include biopsy images and the resulting vast amounts of information can be stored in databases.
"This new company will revolutionise patient care and expand GE vision for Early Health - the ability to diagnose disease at the earliest possible stage, which in turn can lead to more effective treatment and monitoring," said Gene Cartwright, Chief Executive Officer of Omnyx.
"Digitising pathology will allow Omnyx to provide doctors with better tools for the full care continuum, enhancing their decision-making capabilities in key disease areas," he added.
Pathology imaging and the dissemination of the resulting information has the potential to be big business, particularly in the US, where an aging population will increasingly rely on medical equipment and an increased use of digital equipment for diagnosis.
Already, GE Healthcare can expect some form of competition for business where companies, such as California-based Aperio Technologies already scan biopsies and transforming computers into virtual microscopes.
"Digital pathology provides a platform for the creation of new tools that will help pathologists screen large numbers of slides in search of a small nest of cells or a few bacteria to quickly and accurately diagnose disease," said George Michalopoulos, professor and chairman of the Department of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh and pathologist at UPMC.
Omnyx will be based in Pittsburgh and is projected to employ at least 40 people within three years. The state is providing $180,000 to help with job creation.