On a brisk 30°F morning in March, I slipped into the most comfortable shoes I could find, to tackle a two day USCAP tradeshow tour in Boston, MA. My first impression was -WOW - USCAP is all grown up. I've been attending USCAP since 1999, at a time when the exhibit were in a small hotel ballroom with a handful of vendors like Dako and Novocastra displaying their antibodies and detection systems.
The meeting became more contemporary in the early 2000’s with new entrants in the space like the slick walkaway Ventana Benchmark, at the time when the company was run by Chris Gleeson and Hany Massarany, veterans from the Immunoassay world driving automation within Anatomic Pathology. Then, about seven years ago, digital pathology entered the scene in a big way and USCAP hit its stride on the path to becoming a premier showcase for advances in pathology. Venture capitalists helped companies like Aperio and BioImagine to make a huge splash at USCAP beginning in 2010; both companies were acquired by Leica Biosystems and Roche respectively. At the same time GE (Omnyx), and Phillips came on the scene. Phillips driving the breakthrough concept of linking radiology and lab patient information for a pathologist diagnosis on one system. USCAP would never be the same.
This year’s 2015 USCAP did not disappoint. The event felt similar to the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) tradeshow in size and scope, including 132 diverse tissue relevant exhibitors with digital pathology and information technology leading the focus. For the first time this year, I felt like Anatomic Pathology testing is here to stay with advances making a significant impact on patient care focused on improving turnaround time and accuracy of results. Pathologists are now expanding beyond protein analysis to molecular techniques and have embraced, well, maybe accepted, digital pathology as part of their future.
Companies at the 2015 event included Commercial Reference Labs and the traditional antibody manufacturers and tissue processing companies, as well as industry leaders in Digital Image Analysis, MDx, NGS, and data management tools.
Market Leaders – What’s New?
Perhaps supporting the notion that USCAP has become one of the big dogs on the tradeshow circuit was the presence of innovative, new technologies from many of the industry leaders.
Market leader Ventana/Roche showcased the Ventana HE 600 in its booth. The system touts a Xylene, alcohol and DI water free all-in-one H&E Stainer. The last four years of development focused on optimizing the system through reagent development, Phase 3 customer match study, market research on diagnostic utility and perfecting customer tissue optimization and preferences. This system takes advantage of the laboratory’s vertical space and consolidates the H&E process to include baking, staining and cover-slipping into one instrument. The design was well thought out and the instrument appeared to be relatively close to launch. Positioning aside, performance will be key and Ventana seems to have done their homework with pathologists.
Dako (an Agilent Technologies Company) featured the OMNIS advanced staining platform, an instrument targeted for the high-volume pathology lab. It holds up to 60 temperature-controlled reagents, provides on-board mixing and 15-minute daily setup. A user can expect a throughput of 60 ISH or 165 IHC slides per run. A number of user-friendly features have also been key in early uptake of the system, according to the local product specialist.
Leica Biosystems differentiated from competitors with an integrated company message across all their businesses to drive their one-stop-shopping message including; Novocastra reagents from Newcastle UK, The Bond advanced stainer from Melbourne, Kreatech FISH molecular from the Netherlands, and Aperio Digital Pathology from San Diego, CA. Showcased in the booth was the sample tracking system CEREBRO for positive patient identification across the entire AP workflow continuum.
Another company worth noting is Biocare Medical, which featured its solution for digital imaging (spawned from a partnership with Applied Spectral Imaging and recently acquired CymoGen, LLC, strengthening the company’s offerings for FISH and colorimetric assays). The ONCORE desktop automated staining systems provides individual protocols for both FISH and IHC and slide treatment from baking to chromogen incubation. With their eyes turned to the future horizon, Biocare has recently announced diagnostic development capabilities for pharmaceutical and companion diagnostic partnerships.
Not be outdone, Sakura Finetek featured the Vision Tek for live high-resolution imaging of H&E stains. Sakura did not exhibit the Tissue Tek Autosection, but has initiated evaluations to prospective clients, a system with the potential to transform histology workflow with its programmable and automated microtome product.
Emerging Companies to Watch
Alongside the industry leaders were many emerging companies that are sure to have innovative and novel technologies entering the arena in the near future. Digitizing and automating the entire pathology workflow, Phillips appeared again at USCAP with a focus on end to end digital pathology workflow to cancer centers. Their approach was unique in partnering with Inspirata to deliver an advanced pathologist working experience providing everything from tracking tissue samples to high-resolution slide scanning and integration of PACS from radiology, LIS, endoscopy and electronic health records.
Are you looking for compact PCR technology for tissues and state of the art sample preparation? Keep your eye on Biocartis and their Idylla™ BRAF, KRAS and NRAS Mutations tests.
Affymetrix featured their View RNA for tissue, a branched DNA technology for in situ hybridization. With their capabilities to address molecular, cellular and pathology for cytogenetics, expect a novel approach for future offerings.
What’s next in anatomic pathology?
Automation of anatomic pathology will continue to take hold over the coming years. In histology, the impact will be on microtomy, rapid tissue processing and all-in-one stainers such as the Ventana HE 100. Advanced staining techniques will continue to improve with enhancements in FISH techniques (as with the DAKO Omnis). One must wonder when a platform linking advanced staining to digital pathology will be unveiled. Automation is already on the forefront with the Inspirata fully integrated system within reach. Along with these advances, expect to see more nucleic acid tools for interrogating tissue samples and competitive liquid biopsy to continue to emerge.
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