As diagnostics turn molecular, the standard pathologist techniques of tissue staining and mounting are looking antiquated. Bay Area upstart 3Scan hopes to change that.
3Scan is developing a computerized biopsy tool. It works by shaving tissue samples with a diamond-edged blade that’s got a camera in it — very sci-fi — and then digitizing the ultra high-res images of the biopsied tissue. Those images can be pieced back together on a computer and viewed as a 3D tissue sample. You can even zoom in for a view at a cellular level.
“It’s like a scientific deli slicer,” said Megan Klimen, 3Scan’s chief operating officer.
3Scan just raised a $14 million Series B round, and is funded in part by investor Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs. Right now, the company is focusing exclusively on the preclinical drug discovery market, since the regulatory pathway for computer-aided diagnostics is still quite nascent. But it’s developing a platform that its executives hope could work for pathologists down the road.
There are a few other contenders in the field of digital pathology: GE Healthcare has teamed up with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to create a tool called the Omnyx IDP. The tool digitizes slides created by pathologists, so that pathologists can view biopsy cross-sections on a computer, rather than under a microscope.
Leica Biosystems, which has operations around the world, has created something quite similar: Its Aperio ePathology system also scans slides with a high-res camera.
As for 3Scan, it raised a $6.7 million Series A round last year, and in the interim has built out the hardware of its pathology robot. Its new funding will go toward building out software. It’s developing analysis tools that can, say, automatically detect how tissues change, Klimen said — gauging tumor growth by using machine learning instead of with the human eye.