GE Healthcare JV joins White House initiative for remote cancer Dx in Africa, Haiti

The effective diagnosis and treatment of cancer has remained a largely First World problem so far. But someday, perhaps sooner rather than later, that's expected to no longer be the case. A coalition has created a global initiative to improve access to some of the most underserved populations in sub-Saharan Africa and Haiti.

Omnyx, an existing digital pathology joint venture of GE Healthcare ($GE) and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), has joined the coalition that also includes the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). The White House first announced the initiative last month.

Thus far, ASCP has rounded up a $26.5 million commitment to the project comprised of infrastructure, funding and in-kind resources. The world's largest professional group for pathologists and laboratory workers, ASCP is leading the initiative.

Omnyx CEO Mamar Gelaye

"Technology serves as an enabler of clinician collaboration, and we believe patients benefit the most," said Omnyx CEO Mamar Gelaye in a statement. "We are proud to be engaged in an effort that has such a positive impact on rural/community health in Africa."

Omnyx will provide whole slide imaging scanners and workflow software, while ASCP pathologists in the U.S. will process biopsy slides from patients in Africa and Haiti. The aim is to provide a diagnosis within one to three days.

An estimated 650,000 people develop cancer annually in Africa, with about 510,000 cancer deaths occurring every year. More than one-third of those deaths are from cancers that are easily preventable or treatable if they are detected early, Omnyx noted.

Many sub-Saharan countries don't have the trained personnel and infrastructure necessary to support that level of detection. There is less than one pathologist for every one million people in the region, while the U.S. has more than 60 pathologists for every one million people. For example, Omnyx noted that there's only one pathologist for the entire country of Swaziland that has a population of about two million.

"By leveraging leap frog technology and the skills and experience of ASCP members, clinicians in Sub-Saharan Africa can have access to quality real-time cancer diagnostics, allowing them to detect cancers and subsequently treat patients more quickly," said ASCP CEO E. Blair Holladay.

"ASCP and partners will develop and administer an economical, scalable, secure, and reliable cloud-based infrastructure and telemedicine platform to register specimens, record findings, and disseminate diagnostic results to local clinicians who can implement patient management. Through this commitment, local clinicians in Sub-Saharan Africa will be able to provide a level of diagnostic care currently scarce or unavailable locally," he concluded.

- here is the announcement