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Risks and Rewards of Pathology Innovation: The Academic Pathology Department as a Business Incubator

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									                  Risks and Rewards of Pathology Innovation
                  The Academic Pathology Department as a Business Incubator
                                                           Ronald S. Weinstein, MD



T   hrough spin-off businesses, the academic pathology
      department has a special role in creating the future
for the field of pathology. This topic has not been dis-
                                                                          space. For purposes of disclosure, I had no direct equity
                                                                          involvement in the first 2 companies, Sunquest Informa-
                                                                          tion Systems, Inc, and Ventana Medical Systems, Inc; I co-
cussed in any depth in the pathology literature.                          founded the third company, DMetrix, Inc, and do have
   Universities can recruit and mentor faculty members                    equity in that company.
and nonprofessional employees who have the potential to
start spin-off companies and who, thus, can make a dif-                               Sunquest Information Systems, Inc
ference through invention, creation, and commercializa-                      Sunquest Information Systems, Inc, was actually one of
tion of their ideas.1,2 Strong leadership and a commitment                the first spin-off companies of the new Arizona Health
to entrepreneurship are important in maintaining a de-                    Science Center and its University Medical Center, in Tuc-
partmental environment conducive to innovation. This ar-                  son. The Arizona Health Sciences Center was created
ticle presents case studies of laboratory businesses ema-                 around 1966 to house Arizona’s first and only College of
nating from The University of Arizona’s Department of                     Medicine. Sunquest Information Systems, Inc, was co-
Pathology, which has had a strong track record in entre-                  founded in 1979–1980 by James E. Peebles, BA, then di-
preneurship for more than a quarter of a century.                         rector of Information Systems at The University of Ari-
           THE TUCSON PATHOLOGY CLUSTER:                                  zona Health Sciences Center; Sidney Goldblatt, MD, a pa-
       SPIN-OFF OF LABORATORY COMPANIES BY                                thologist from Johnstown, Pennsylvania; and Robert Mor-
        THE ARIZONA HEALTH SCIENCES CENTER                                rison, an engineer from Tucson, Arizona.
                                                                             Mr Peebles was educated as a mathematician and, after
   The ‘‘Tucson Pathology Cluster’’ describes a group of                  earning a BA degree in mathematics from the University
independent companies with roots in the Department of                     of Virginia (Charlottesville), he started his career in com-
Pathology at the Arizona Health Sciences Center and its                   puters at the prestigious Applied Physics Laboratory at
University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. Academic                    Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. By the
principals in these companies were active contributors to                 time he was in his mid-20s, Mr Peebles had developed a
an annual review series, Advances in Pathology and Labora-                reputation as a wunderkind in computers. The University
tory Medicine, which I edited with Dr Ramzi Contran and                   of Arizona College of Medicine was founded in 1966. Jack
others for years. I served as department head of pathology                M. Layton, MD, the founding Department of Pathology
for 17 years in Arizona (1990–2007). Before that, I was                   chair, was recruited from The University of Iowa (Iowa
chair of the Department of Pathology at Rush Medical Col-                 City). He was a gifted educator as well as a talented re-
lege in Chicago, Illinois, for 15 years (1975–1990). During               cruiter of outstanding faculty members. Also, to his credit,
the 32 years I served as an academic pathology chair, I                   Dr Layton would prove to be a supporter of departmental
was personally engaged with start-up companies in po-                     entrepreneurship as well. One of Dr Layton’s primary
sitions ranging from CEO to scientific director. I had a                   goals for the laboratory at the new university hospital was
bird’s-eye view, from the dual perspective of a university                to have an automated laboratory information system when
insider and an entrepreneur, of some of the activities re-                the hospital opened.
lated to pathology department spin-off companies.                            The founding dean of The University of Arizona College
   In this Futurescape presentation, I will describe 3 com-               of Medicine, Merlin K. DuVal, MD, a surgeon recruited
panies that were all spin-offs out of The University of Ar-               from the University of Oklahoma (Norman), wanted to
izona’s Pathology Department. Additional spin-offs of the                 create a university medical center that would eventually
Department of Pathology are not included for lack of                      be entirely paperless. He envisioned a new hospital, our
                                                                          University Medical Center, that would leverage emerging
  Accepted for publication October 31, 2008.                              computer technologies into a state-of-the-art clinical facil-
  From the Department of Pathology, Arizona Telemedicine Program,         ity. Dean DuVal was a visionary in a number of ways.
The University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson.                       Dean DuVal heard of Mr Peebles from other faculty
  Dr Weinstein is cofounder of, and has equity in, DMetrix, Inc, Tuc-     members and personally assisted in recruiting him to Ar-
son, Arizona.                                                             izona. Mr Peebles’ reputation was that of being the ‘‘best-
  Presented in part at the College of American Pathologists Futurescape
of Pathology Conference, Rosemont, Illinois, June 7–8, 2008.
                                                                          of-breed’’ of young computer system integrators. Dean
  Reprints: Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, Department of Pathology, The         D
								
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