NextUp: The Local Company Modernizing Disease Diagnosis

Proscia has developed software and artificial intelligence tools to make pathology more accurate and efficient.

Co-founders of Proscia, David West, Coleman Stavish and Nathan Buchbinder.

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Who: In 2014, David West and Nathan Buchbinder were students at Johns Hopkins University when they teamed up with Coleman Stavish, a longtime friend of West’s, to form Proscia. The company uses software with artificial intelligence (AI) tools to streamline the process of storing, analyzing and sharing digital images of biopsies.

What: Proscia’s Concentriq software enables digital images of biopsies — huge digital files that have historically been hard to manage — to be successfully stored, examined, diagnosed, annotated, and shared with other pathologists. This limits the time pathologists and pathology labs spend managing samples so they can concentrate on making accurate diagnoses. Proscia’s artificial intelligence modules are trained by tens of thousands of previously diagnosed samples to understand tissue patterns. Among other tasks, these AI modules can pre-categorize conditions for better, more efficient diagnosis and run automated quality assurance (QA) testing after diagnosis, flagging possible misdiagnoses for reevaluation by a pathologist.

When: West, Buchbinder and Stavish moved Proscia’s headquarters from Baltimore to Philadelphia in 2017 to take advantage of the city’s deep pool of young tech professionals coming out of local universities. In 2018, Proscia secured $8.3 million in Series A financing; the company has raised $12.3 million to date. In 2018, the three co-founders were named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in the healthcare category. In 2019, the company announced its first AI application, Proscia DermAI. The tool pre-screens and classifies skin biopsies to help reduce errors and improve lab efficiency.

Why: The process of diagnosing biopsies has long been a slow, manual process. For roughly 150 years, pathologists have worked to identify patterns in disease tissue samples by viewing those samples through glass slides with a microscope. The commercial introduction of whole-slide imaging (WSI) scanners — devices that digitize disease samples — nearly two decades ago sparked a shift in the field of pathology toward data-backed diagnoses and precision medicine.

At the same time, the United States has seen a steady decline in the number of pathologists entering and staying in the field. A recent study found the U.S. pathologist workforce declined 17 percent from 2007 to 2017. In that time, pathologists went from representing more than two percent to 1.4 percent of all U.S. physicians.

What It Means: Proscia is positioned to capitalize on a perfect storm. As the number of available pathologists continues to decrease and the demand for more precise pathology increases, Proscia’s technology could become a critical tool for reducing the human subjectivity of diagnoses, while improving accuracy and ultimately improving patient outcomes.