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Deep Lens, a digital pathology startup, exited “stealth mode” with a seed funding round of $3.2 million, which will be used to enhance the firm’s cloud-based pathology workflows that use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve efficiency in cancer diagnosis and match patients to clinical trials.
The funding round for the Columbus, Ohio startup, was led by Silicon Valley-based Sierra Ventures, with the other participants being Rev1 Ventures and Tamarind Hill Fund. Following the financing round, Mark Shary, the managing member of Tamarind Hill, and Concerto Health chief executive officer, Jeff Elton will join Deep Len’s board of directors.
Deep Lens’ flagship is its Virtual Imaging for Pathology Education and Research (VIPER) technology, which combines AI with advanced pathology workflows, while also facilitating peer-to-peer and pathologist-to-patient collaboration. The company hopes that with the financing it can further deploy its VIPER technology.
The startup has since released a beta version of VIPER to research hospitals and academic medical centers.
“The ultimate aim is to provide users with fast and accurate information, along with expert consultation, for better patient care and advanced clinical research,” Deep Lens said in a statement.
Deep Lens co-founder Dave Billiter said the VIPER technology was meant to empower and enable “the pathology community, allowing them to focus on the nuanced cancer diagnoses and case-specific details that require many years of specialized medical training. It’s incredibly exciting to now leverage the evolution in machine vision technology, as we launch VIPER globally, free of charge to benefit all pathologists and, in turn, their patients.”
Sierra Ventures managing director, Mark Fernandes said they had been “diligently analyzing AI and computer vision in the healthcare market, and we believe Deep Lens has the key components to make a significant impact in digital pathology with a strong team, leading technology, and vast market opportunity.”
Billiter invented the digital imaging technology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where he served as a Director of the Biopathology Center Informatics Team and the Informatics Core of the Research Institute.
For more than 10 years, Deep Lens said, the technology was used and refined by pathologists at more than 65 major institutions in eight countries.
Over this period, Deep Lens generated significant a considerable amount of feedback, which they have used to enhance their platform. The company said it had also established a world-class imaging lab to enable pathology groups to “go digital” by sending slides to Deep Lens, then receive digital versions of those slides within 48 hours along with free access to VIPER.
Deep Lens said it had “exclusively licensed the resulting VIPER technology and image analysis methods with the goal of extending the platform with integrated and automated artificial intelligence.”
Nilsa Ramirez, the medical director of the Biopathology Center at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said “For many years VIPER has been used to support many translational research projects and clinical trial initiatives across several NCI-funded cancer research efforts with reviews completed by hundreds of pathologists.”
The Medical Director, of pathology and laboratory medicine at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Jason Jarzembowski said VIPER had been “thoughtfully designed and built by pathology industry leaders to enable pathologists to perform their best work to better fight cancer. With the VIPER launch, I believe now is the time that the pathology industry can reap the benefits of AI to save time, reduce costs, and deliver faster and more accurate diagnoses.”
VIPER, the Pharmaphorum website said, uses advanced AI to conduct certain monotonous diagnostic tests instantaneously, allowing for speedy diagnoses.
In a more technical explanation, the Biz Journals website explained that Deep Lens’ technology “uses image analysis and a form of AI called deep learning to augment the pathologist’s eyes. The software can automate repetitive tasks like counting cells, and do it more accurately. It searches through other samples for similarities that could aid diagnosis – like matching fingerprints in an FBI database. Hospitals that lack the equipment can send their slides to the company, which will upload them to the cloud.”
This will in turn result in faster cancer diagnosis by flagging a cancer at the lab-testing phase, instead of waiting for the pathologist’s to report back to the oncologist. It also can find potential matches for patients to clinical trials – referral revenue from bio-pharmaceutical companies lets Deep Lens offer a certain amount of cloud storage free to hospitals, the website said.
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