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My Conversation with Dr. Dan Rudmann, Charles River Laboratories, on AI-Powered Process Automation

Nathan Buchbinder
By Nathan Buchbinder | August 10, 2022

“Process automation introduces the benefits of Ford’s assembly line to the lengthy drug development process.”

Dr. Dan Rudmann, Scientific Director, Digital Pathology at Charles River Laboratories, shared these powerful words during a recent conversation that we had at Proscia’s Pathology at Life Speed event. Together, we hosted a session, “Improve Research Efficiency and Data Quality with AI-powered Workflow Automation,” where we spoke about the power of process automation for the pathology workflow. These computational solutions streamline manual, repetitive tasks to drive quality, improve productivity, and enable your team to focus time and resources where they matter most.

I was especially excited to be joined by Dan, as he has a unique perspective to offer. He not only works at Charles River Laboratories, a top contract research organization (CRO) that supported approximately 85% of all drugs approved by the FDA in 2021, but also his team collaborates with Proscia on our own suite of process automation applications, including our Automated Quality Control. Seamlessly embedded in our Concentriq for Research digital pathology platform, Automated QC is an AI-powered application that detects six of the most commonly occurring quality artifacts within the research workflow.

Towards the beginning of our discussion, Dan provided some general context on the benefits of digital pathology. “Whole slide imaging enables us to meaningfully collaborate in real time. We can annotate together, and we can discuss together,” he said. “It’s also empowering us to drive innovation by finding interesting points that lead to new insights.”

He later explained that realizing this transformative impact means performing a tedious manual quality control process to ensure that pathologists and scientists receive data they can fully leverage. “The adage holds true. Garbage in, garbage out.” According to Dan, “It can take a technical staff member who is well trained up to eight hours to do rigorous manual review of 200 whole slide images.”

So, it’s hardly surprising why his team is excited about automating quality control. Doing so gives the technical staff back time and helps them to focus on adding more value, reducing burnout by eliminating a tedious task. His team can also start studies sooner since they gain faster access to high-quality data. When you consider that the average drug takes 10 to 12 years to bring to market, the cumulative impact of process automation becomes even clearer.

Dan also shared his take on what makes a process automation solution like Automated Quality Control successful. He began by highlighting how important it is that the application fits into the existing laboratory workflow, a point that’s always been central to our strategy at Proscia.

“We have to think about the whole workflow,” he said. “We don’t want to get caught up in the innovation without thinking about the operational end.”

He additionally emphasized the value that comes from flexible solutions. Dan mentioned that there are certain “pinch points,” like quality control, data ingestion, and metadata ingestion, that apply to all use cases of digital pathology. “When we think about these tools, we want them to be adaptable and usable for anything we want to do within that process.”

Dan ended our conversation with a fitting analogy. “I think about what Ford did with the assembly line, revolutionizing the process for building cars. When it comes to digital pathology, we know how to build the car and we’ve got the tools, so to speak. Now, we’re making that fit the assembly line process without taking away from the science. And Automated QC is one of the solutions that is making it happen.”

My conversation with Dan reinforced my enthusiasm for process automation solutions and the potential they bring to data-driven R&D. To hear our full discussion – and conversations with other life sciences leaders – watch the full Pathology at Life Speed event.

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