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GE Healthcare-UPitt Pathology Venture Omnyx Wins First US Patent for Rapid-Focus Microscope

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Omnyx, a company formed last year by GE Healthcare and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to improve the speed and efficiency of the diagnosis and interpretation of lab results, has been issued its first US patent.

The patent, US No., 7,576,307, is for a microscope with dual image sensors for rapid autofocusing.

Scientists at GE Global Research developed the technology, and General Electric is the only assignee named on the patent.

Omnyx, based in Pittsburgh, said in a statement that it is also the sole licensee of the patent, which covers a "key technology innovation." Omnyx is incorporating the technology into its whole-slide scanners to achieve high image quality while "breaking through current barriers in scanning speed."

Details of Omnyx's license with GE have not been disclosed. Calls to the company were not returned prior to publication of this story.

Products containing the digital pathology technology are currently in development and not yet commercially available, Omnyx said.

The patent covers a system that uses two image sensors in a digital microscope, with a primary sensor for acquiring images at a fast rate and an auxiliary sensor that acquires focus data at a faster rate.

“Traditional digital pathology systems use only one sensor to perform both tasks," Michael Montalto, vice president of instrument development for Omnyx, said in a statement. "This new concept uses two sensors, which allows the whole process to be faster while still taking a huge amount of focus points, thereby creating high-quality images at a faster rate."

Omnyx said that the technology enables image acquisition to be two to four times faster than existing technologies.

"Speed is a significant advantage in high-volume pathology labs," Gene Cartwright, Omnyx's CEO, said in a statement. "Fast throughput increases the flow in the lab and reduces turnaround time to the pathologist. It also cuts down on the number of scanners needed to digitize large volumes of slides."

Omnyx said that large laboratories, such as those at the UPitt Medical Center, can process more than 1 million slides per year.

GE Healthcare and UPMC announced the formation of Omnyx in June 2008 (see BTW, 6/11/2008).

The company operates independently with unspecified financial support from both GE and UPMC, which has said that the investment is part of its strategy to commercialize its health care, technology, and management expertise under a joint development partnership inked with GE in 2006.

Omnyx plans to commercialize digital platform products that will enable clinicians to share images virtually, interpret results using advanced algorithms, and reduce costs associated with diagnoses by combining digital x-ray imaging technology from GE’s Global Research Center with digital pathology developments from UPMC.

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