Pathology’s Digital Future

Winter 2019

David West
(Courtesy of Catherine Graham)

David West ’16 has long been an entrepreneur. As early as seventh grade, West and his friends in the Philadelphia suburb where he grew up started a business converting VHS videos to DVDs.

“Someone actually trusted me to handle their wedding video as a middle schooler,” West remembers. “I caught the bug for business at that point.”

West applied early decision to Johns Hopkins’ biomedical engineering program to marry his interests in technology and medicine. Once at the Whiting School, he soon became involved in the Kairos Society, a global organization of college entrepreneurs. While juggling his academic load over his second year, West worked with members of the group to form their own company, Karcinex, which developed a device that increased the sensitivity of urine cytology tests for bladder cancer.

That company served as a starting point for his next venture. Together with childhood friend Coleman Stavish and fellow Johns Hopkins engineering student Nathan Buchbinder ’15, he formed a new company they named Proscia in 2014. West signed the closing documents for the company’s first round of financing during his Whiting School graduation ceremony in 2016.

Proscia was inspired by the many talks that West had with Johns Hopkins urologists while launching Karcinex. Several of these mentors told him that digital pathology—moving the images of tissue samples gathered to diagnose disease onto computers —would be the wave of the future. Such technology would not only allow experts to share results and gather opinions but could also eventually take human bias out of pathology by allowing artificial intelligence algorithms to analyze results.

Proscia aims to do both. Since the company’s launch, it has amassed thousands of physician users across 130 major hospitals and labs. Using Proscia’s tools, physicians can gain access to these images either on the cloud or on their institution’s electronic medical record system, allowing shared access among multiple individuals at the same institution and beyond.

The company has also developed additional tools to automatically analyze images for characteristics important to a variety of diseases.

“We call it digital pathology now, but this is shifting to the standard of care,” West says. “Eventually, this will just be called pathology, and our company will be leading the way.”