Three Tips to Optimize Your R&D Digital Pathology Workflow

Tressa Joy
By Tressa Joy | August 30, 2021

The prevalence of digital pathology in life science research has come a long way since its initial adoption in the 1960s and 70s. The implementation of whole slide imaging (WSI), advances in software and computer processing capacity, and the increasing importance of tissue-based research for biomarker discovery and personalized medicine have exponentially driven the adoption to accelerate R&D initiatives.

With this adoption has come a better understanding of the ways digital pathology can drive improvements such as increased operational efficiency along this workflow. The adoption of digital pathology across multiple sites helps to eliminate geographic barriers, reducing subjectivity and ultimately improving pathology. However, global implementation of a world-class digital pathology platform requires time and planning to implement, as well as long-term organizational commitment by the corporation. In our experience supporting the important research conducted by some of the world’s largest biopharma and life science organizations, we have solidified our understanding of how organizations can make the most out of digital pathology solutions. Here are three tips that we’ve found make a big difference in driving R&D efforts forward.

Tip 1: R&D Acceleration Starts With Comprehensive Image Management

A robust image management system (IMS) is fundamental to streamlining life science research. Particularly in multi-site, global organizations, an IMS must have the capability to store, manage, and recall many thousands of digital slides. A seamless workflow can be accomplished via an IMS that can manage all the digital resources such as scanned images, associated metadata – including image analysis – and scoring results so that they can be archived, searched and retrieved for review, analysis and reporting. Additionally, life science organizations find value in automating study set-up via an IMS to save time and valuable resources when starting new projects. A robust IMS will enable labs to follow best practices, including:

  • synchronizing image intake,
  • jumpstarting projects using templates
  • automating metadata import
  • accelerating quality control (QC) 

Tip 2: Ensure Your Digital Ecosystem Is Connected 

Interoperability of an IMS with the existing digital technology ecosystems is critical to ensure smooth operation of a digital pathology workflow. Bi-directional integration between various software such as a lab information management system (LIMS), image analysis (IA), electronic lab notebook, and any homegrown AI applications enables automation of manual steps via integration between systems and ultimately enhances workflow efficiency helping organizations to reach their full potential. Additionally, the interoperability between various systems provides access to the features provided by and data stored within these systems through a single application.

Take for example, bidirectional integration of an IMS with an IA application. Once a user is able to access the images and associated metadata automatically imported, they are able to directly stream that data from a shared image storage location to the IA app along with annotations created in the IMS. The results generated after running algorithms in the IA app can then be sent back to the IMS for visualization and sharing across the entire organization. The result is the combination of the IA app’s quantitative functionality with the IMS’s ability to better consolidate data for sharing, collaboration, and searchability, enabling organizations to better incorporate IA work with broader image management. Similar access to features and data stored in other systems are made possible with an IMS system that enables bidirectional integrations with electronic lab notebook, LIS, and homegrown AI functionalities. Opting to select such an IMS system is desirable for users wanting a solution that is future proof and adaptable to advances in technology of other systems in a digital pathology ecosystem.

Tip 3: Ensure Images And Data Remains Secure While All Users Have The Right Access To The Data They Need 

Digital pathology has led the way in breakthrough research fueled by collaborations within an organization (within teams, across departments, and with colleagues across the world) and between organizations (e.g., projects between biopharma and CRO). Organizations are able not only to collaborate with their peers within large multi-site, global organizations, but also to efficiently outsource pathology services in an effort to streamline workflows and breakdown geographic barriers. The seamless ability to collaborate between user groups is critical for large, multi-site, global organizations invested in breakthrough R&D innovations such as large-scale multinational pre-clinical trials. For example, biopharma sponsors and CROs working together to generate data require an IMS to have robust user-management functionality that enables the control of repository access and sharing, as well as support real-time collaboration. It is vital that the IMS also maintains the security of the images and data generated via controlled access based on project-level and role-based permissions. Such features allow for the large number of digital slides and data generated to be stored within a centralized database that allows for secure, selective access to individuals or groups where necessary. 

Optimization With An Eye Toward Surpassing R&D Goals

Digitization of pathology workflows is instrumental in today’s global research laboratories. Digital pathology has become vital in a wide array of R&D initiatives including tissue-based research, education, and drug development in biotechnology, pharmaceutical and contract research organizations. Streamlining pathology image and data management enables life science organizations to optimize the value of their existing WSI and accelerate progress toward R&D goals. A strong, centralized, database-driven management platform is vital to support the wide range of applications in digital pathology. 

For more information on digital pathology and image analysis, as well as multi-site integration, the following reading is recommended:

For more information on how to optimize your R&D workflow, download Proscia’s white paper “Accelerating Life Sciences R&D with Optimized Image and Data Management.”

New to digital pathology? Learn how whole slide imaging is changing the industry here.

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