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From the Incandescent Light Bulb to Digital Pathology Corporate Innovation as an Engine for Change Michael C. Montalto, PhD; Gene Cartwright, PhD I t is hard not to invoke the legacy of Thomas Edison when discussing the concept of corporate innovation, because it is generally believed that Edison invented the telltale indication of Alzheimer disease, are only observed postmortem, obviously too late to provide therapy. Re- cently, however, we have witnessed fantastic advances in light bulb. However, it is surprising to know that this is our ability to ‘‘see’’ -amyloid plaques in living patients not entirely true. Instead, Edison invented a commercially by examining the brain uptake of the positron emission practical light bulb, by extending the life of its ﬁlament tomography tracer, Pittsburgh Compound B. There are from 13 to 1300 hours. To achieve this remarkable break- much data to support the hypothesis that Pittsburgh Com- through, he searched for and tested hundreds of ﬁlaments pound B binds directly to -amyloid plaques.1 Such ad- until he discovered the speciﬁc carbon ﬁlament that he vances, although promising, are still not available to the patented in 1880. This patent not only teaches us about 20 million patients who are believed to have a precursor how to extend the life of a light bulb but metaphorically form of Alzheimer disease, called mild cognitive impair- teaches us about the value of solving difﬁcult problems ment. Although there are many reasons for the delay in that are needed to transform inventions into practical ev- its clinical use, one important factor is that the current eryday solutions. In doing so, Edison demonstrates that Pittsburgh Compound B positron emission tomography innovation for the sake of inventing has little value. Ap- tracer is available only with the carbon isotope 11C. Such plied innovation for the purposes of solving real-world an isotope is commercially impractical due to its short problems is greatly valuable for customers and, in turn, half-life of 20 minutes. Thus, to make Pittsburgh Com- for shareholders. Thus, Edison left a legacy of corporate pound B more broadly available to the ‘‘at risk’’ mild cog- innovation, not just for GE but for many companies that nitive impairment population, it is important to convert followed. this compound into a more commercially practical tracer, Today, in GE Healthcare, we continue with the tradi- such as one that uses 18F as its radionuclide. GE Healthcare tions of Edison. First, by understanding key market driv- scientists are working diligently on exactly that problem ers and unmet customers needs. Once understood we and are making great progress.1 Of course, converting car- strive toward understanding the technology
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