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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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