INTERESTING THINGS ARE UNFOLDING within the profession of anatomic pathology. If the adage of “follow the money” applies to understanding why things happen, then recent events support some surprising conclusions.
Take the news reported in this issue of The Dark Report that PathGroup of Nashville is acquiring Pathologists Bio-Medical Laboratories (PBML) of Dallas. That brings together two regional supergroups of 75 and 48 physicians and PhDs, respectively. Match this combination with the acquisition done last December where Sonic Healthcare acquired Aurora Diagnostics. That brought Aurora’s 32 pathology groups and 200 pathologists into the Sonic organization, which already had labs and pathologists in nine locations across the United States.
Although the price of the PathGroup-PBML deal was not disclosed, Sonic paid $540 million for Aurora Diagnostics. So, these two deals combined probably total $700 million. Pathologists across the country can thus make a valid conclusion that super-regional pathology groups have a future, both clinically and financially. Further, it is also valid to assume that investor money will be available to support similar regional pathology super-group purchases in coming years.
The other anatomic pathology sector with substantial investment involves what I will collectively call digital pathology, whole slide imaging, and automated image analysis. In the last issue of The Dark Report, we called attention to the recent surge of capital being invested in digital pathology companies. The roll call included: PathAI (Boston, $60 million); Deep Lens (Columbus, Ohio, $14 million); and Ibex Medical Analytics (Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel, $11 million).
All three companies are developing products that use automated image analysis and artificial intelligence designed to help pathologists analyze digital pathology images. Currently, only the Philips digital pathology system has FDA clearance for use in primary diagnosis.
Yet, if the “follow the money” adage applies to digital pathology and automated image analysis, then a safe conclusion—based on these capital investments—is that these technologies are advancing at a rapid pace. The more adventurous prediction is that the pathology profession may be surprised at the speed and number of digital pathology systems and image analysis products that are presented to the FDA for review within the next 30 months!