PathXL doubles its employees and has £3m in sales under new owner
A medical technology company in Belfast has said it will take on another 20 people after already doubling its workforce and reaching revenues of around £3m under new ownership.
PathXL started out as a Queen's University spin-out firm in 2004.
It was taken over by Netherlands-based tech giant Philips last year and now has a growing base in Catalyst Inc.
Its aim is to replace the use of microscopes and glass slides in pathology with digital images on a computer screen, making labs more efficient and eliminating the risk of error.
Pathology involves the examination of patient tissue samples and plays an important part in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, including cancer.
While Philips is best known for its consumer technology, it also has a major healthcare division.
PathXL co-founder Peter Hamilton - now the group leader of image analytics of Philips Healthcare - said: "Just over a year ago Philips acquired us and it's been a really interesting time.
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"We shared a vision that digital pathology could really transform cancer diagnostics. The organisation has gone from 28 to 60 people, and there's been a huge amount of investment to develop out the technology which started in Belfast."
The company - which also has offices in the US, and distributors in three continents - is aiming to use artificial intelligence of the kind used in consumer products like mobile phones and driverless cars in cancer tumour analysis.
"In biopsies, where a patient has a suspicious lump, it is routinely looked at by a pathologist through a microscope. That can be very subjective and can be subject to trial and error, but AI can be used to identify where a tumour is in a sample."
He said digital pathology could streamline the workflow of pathologists and be used for automatic cancer detection, and in grading technology - including identifying if cancer has spread into the lymph nodes.
"It's still early days for the technology but we are working closely with the teams in the Netherlands where Philips is based to develop these technologies and take them into the clinic for the real benefit of patients."
He said the company has been making sales into the global market over the last 10 years in education and training, research and in the development of algorithims. And he said its use was not restricted to cancer detection and treatments. "In hospitals 95% of clinical pathways use pathology so we are really improving the care and management of real patients."
Mr Hamilton said most of the company's work is in software development.
"The jobs we've created have been in the software field, the field of engineering and algorithm development, as well as sales, project management, software development and support.
"We expect to be hiring an additional 20 people and making a real investment in the local economy. In the last year or so we have generated around £3m in sales and we have been reinvesting that."
Speaking at the time of the acquisition, Russ Granzow, general manager of Philips Digital Pathology Solutions, said the deal would enable it to accelerate "our drive to support global medical institutions in their transition to digitized pathology workflows".
Mr Hamilton founded the company with Dr Jim Diamond.