News Feature | June 22, 2016

Philips Buys Digital Pathology Firm Path XL, Inks Software Partnership

By Suzanne Hodsden

philips marquee

Philips is expanding its foothold in digital pathology with the acquisition of Path XL, a digital imaging analysis (DIA) and software firm based in Ireland, as well as a licensing agreement with Visiopharm, a software company developing algorithms for breast cancer. Philips CEO Frans van Houten commented that he expects Philips digital pathology business to double year over year.

Traditional diagnostic imaging and biopsy relies on the eyes of a pathologist to identify suspicious abnormalities or disease biomarkers. Because the results are subjective, researchers have found inconsistencies between pathologists in their identification and classification of diseases like cancer.  A recent study in Modern Pathology demonstrated that DIA, in support of specialist opinion, outperformed traditional methods when diagnosing breast cancer.

Path XL was spun out of Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland in 2004, and has been developing technology that can analyze cancerous cells and scan and store images for doctors’ later reference.  Last year, Path XL announced positive results from a study of the company’s automated tumor analysis platform, TissueMark.

“The computer can do a much better job than the human eye, as it is much more systematic in analyzing tissues,” said van Houten, in an interview with Irish Times. He added that Philips digital pathology business would be worth tens of millions this year and double every year thereafter. The acquisition of Path XL gave Philips access to “deep clinical knowledge” as the company works to build its leadership position in the DIA sector.

Russ Granzow, GM of Philips Digital Pathology Solutions, said in a press statement that Philips is committed to working with medical institutions worldwide as they transition to digital pathology solutions from more traditional approaches.

“Together with PathXL we see a unique opportunity to amplify our combined technology leadership positions,” said Granzow. “We will be able to offer an intelligent and integrated solution that fulfills many needs in computational pathology, education, workflow solutions, and image analytics. These important and growing disciplines within pathology will enable a high-quality quantitative analysis of digital whole slide images.”

Meanwhile, a new licensing deal will couple breast cancer panel software algorithms developed at Visiopharm with the Philips IntelliSite digital pathology solution. Visiopharm CEO Michael Grunkin noted that Philips’ high image quality, combined with Visiopharm’s reagent agnostic DIA system, will enable a more precise diagnosis and more personalized treatment.

“Rapid advances in digital imaging coupled with the use of powerful new analytic methods promise to radically change the future of pathology,” said Grunkin, in a press statement.

Van Houten recently signaled that Philips might be in the market for acquisitions on the billion-dollar scale, but said the company also may pursue a series of much smaller deals. Philips HealthTech, recently split from the company’s legacy lighting business, is pursuing growth in healthcare personalization, said Van Houten.