CEO SUMMARY: Now that the FDA has cleared a digital pathology for use in primary diagnosis, interest in DP is building. Inspirata purchased Omnyx and its assets because the Omnyx Dynamyx digital pathology software has strong features that could be integrated into Inspirata’s digital pathology solution. In this interview with THE DARK REPORT, Inspirata CEO Satish Sanan outlines the steps the company took to acquire Omnyx and how his company plans to support Omnyx’s customers.
OVER MORE THAN A YEAR, THE CEO of Inspirata doggedly pursued GE Healthcare in his attempts to secure a deal to acquire Omnyx LLC of Pittsburgh. His efforts paid off when the acquisition was announced on Jan. 31. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
In an interview with THE DARK REPORT, CEO Satish Sanan explained the strategy Inspirata, a digital pathology company in Tampa, used to acquire what Sanan called the jewel of the deal, Omnyx’s digital pathology software, Dynamyx.
In 2008, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and GE Healthcare agreed to contribute $40 million each to form Omnyx LLC, a 50/50 joint venture that would develop a digital pathology system. (See “GE, UPMC Create Company for Digital Path Imaging,” TDR, June 16, 2008.)
The partners predicted that Omnyx would capture 25%, or $500 million, of a market that at the time was estimated to grow to $2 billion. That dream died in December 2016 when GE Healthcare ended the partnership, saying regulatory uncertainty and variable global demand caused the company to cease pursuing new business opportunities for Omnyx and scale back to support its existing customers.
Inspirata now plans to sell Dynamyx, along with hardware from other scanner vendors, Sanan told THE DARK REPORT. “Dynamyx is CE-marked in Europe and it has a Health Canada license for use in in vitro diagnostics,” he added.
An Integrated Solution
An early innovator in connecting pathology departments with its own whole slide image scanners and software, Omnyx had installed its digital pathology systems in Europe and Canada. In the past month, Sanan has visited with or spoken to the largest pathology groups using the Omnyx system, Sanan said.
“This acquisition is significant because it takes us the last mile to having a fully integrated, end-to-end digital pathology solution with a device- and application- agnostic whole slide image viewer and image management system,” he added.
“By acquiring Omnyx, Inspirata can use the Dynamyx software—which is scanner-agnostic—to offer a fully-sup- ported IVD device cleared for primary digital diagnosis in Europe and Canada,” he noted. “At the same time, the addition of the Omnyx users expands our customer base and our geographic footprint.”
Inspirata will retain Omnyx’s employees and offices in Pittsburgh and establish a center of excellence for the development of digital pathology software in the Steel City.
In April 2017, Phillips won approval from the FDA to market its Philips IntelliSite Pathology Solution (PIPS) for review and interpretation in the primary diagnosis of digital surgical pathology slides prepared from biopsied or other tissue.
At the time, Inspirata had partnered with Philips to use the company’s scanners as part of what it calls its end-to-end workflow solution.
The FDA approval is important to Inspirata’s deal with Philips because PIPS is the first whole-slide imaging system granted such status.
Inspirata Sought Deal for Onyx Because Its Goal Was to Blend Software Features
FOR INSPIRATA CEO SATISH SANAN, the announcement that his company had acquired Omnyx from GE Healthcare was the culmination of a more than 14-month-long pursuit for what he considered to be the ideal software partner.
“We wanted to do this deal in 2016 when GE first said it would get out of the business of developing software and hardware for pathologists,” Sanan said.
“I called the people at GE and at Omnyx and met with the leadership teams,” he added. “I wanted to buy whatever assets they would sell. But, they were already speaking with some larger companies and expressed concern about our lack of a global footprint.”
Sanan did not give up, meeting with GE officials numerous times in the intervening months to explain why Inspirata valued Omnyx’ assets. “I told them that scanners should not be the main goal,” he said. “The goal should be the functionality, the workflow, and the software.
“Omnyx has the most advanced digital pathology software in the marketplace,” he added. “I know that because we did our due diligence. They had pieces that we didn’t have, such as histology functionality that is quite useful. They also have a strong and novel image-compressional algorithm that is a big differentiator.
“I told them we have features that Omnyx doesn’t have,” Sanan added. “And, our software is interoperable with other systems so that it can display images and reports from radiology, for example.
“For pathologists, we have a complete workflow,” he explained. “Just in the past few months, we added features to manage molecular pathology and other diagnostic testing reports. The combined systems could become the Cadillac of digital pathology workflow software.”
Met With Omnyx Leadership
Over the months, Sanan’s arguments went unheeded. “Then in January 2017, I met with their top leadership again,” he said. “Along with affirming Inspirata’s continued interest in acquiring the company and its assets, I emphasized how Omnyx would be a strategic fit for us.
“Nothing happened at this time because GE was in discussions with two very large companies,” he recounted. “But then, about March of last year, we began talking again.
“We quickly learned that Omnyx had done its due diligence on us and they were ready to hear our proposal,” recalled Sanan. “Our talks led to a deal at the end of December and we made the announcement in January.”
Now, Sanan said, he has a more potent message that his sales team can deliver worldwide. “Actually, I see Inspirata’s partnership with Philips, Leica, and other scanner manufacturers strengthening because our Omnyx acquisition provides new opportunities for all of them to sell scanners through us to the Omnyx customer base that we’ve acquired in Canada and Europe,” he noted. “Soon, we plan to replace the Omnyx VL120 scanners for those customers.
“In addition, we have new global opportunities, including in Europe and Canada, to expand our customer base,” he added. “That will provide other scanner companies with sales opportunities in partnership with us.”
For large pathology groups in the United States, the Inspirata-Omnyx deal is important because Inspirata works closely with Philips to offer the PIPS system to these groups.
“In the United States, we remain the only partner for Philips for the digital pathology workflow,” Sanan explained. “Right now, Philips is the sole scanner manufacturer with FDA approval for primary diagnosis, but I expect other scanner companies will gain FDA approval in the coming weeks or months.”
Inspirata also plans to market its digital pathology solution to smaller pathology groups, Sanan said. “In the near future, we will offer a converged software-as-a-service solution (which combines the best of the Dynamyx software with our existing Digital Pathology Cockpit software) to small labs and groups of 10 to 15 pathologists at a low entry cost,” he explained. “Those small pathology labs and smaller pathology groups will be able to use other low-cost, non-FDA approved scanners that they can self-validate for primary diagnosis.
“Once the Omnyx deal was done but before it was announced, I thought it was important for me to meet personally with Omnyx’s largest customers in Canada and Europe,” Sanan said.
“I asked each one of these customers about the Omnyx system. I wanted to know what they liked and what they didn’t like,” he continued. “I wanted to find out what the pain points were. I learned that they love the Dynamyx software and they want to continue using that software. I also learned that they want someone to honor their existing contracts and continue to deliver on the original promise.
“These labs made a significant investment of millions of dollars in hardware and software and they didn’t want that money to go to waste,” he said. “Also, they didn’t want to start over with a new digital pathology vendor. They wanted to retain the systems they were using.
“It turns out, that their needs fit the Inspirata business model because we are hardware agnostic,” he concluded. “Omnyx customers can keep their IT hardware and Dynamyx software, and we’ll replace and sunset the Omynx VL120 scanners and support that investment going forward.”
Inspirata was profiled in a story published in the July 13, 2015, issue of THE DARK REPORT. That story can be accessed at www.darkreport.com.
Contact Satish Sanan at 813-570-8905
“In the near future, we will offer a converged software- as-a-service solution…
to small labs and groups of 10 to 15 pathologists at a low entry cost.”