WALTHAM, Mass.—Olympus Corp. and the University of Southern California (USC) are working together in a co-development partnership to advance multiscale research in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through precision medicine. This agreement, the USC-Olympus Innovation Partnership in Multiscale Bioimaging, will apply new technologies that unite the workflow of surgical biopsies and primary diagnosis with microscopic cellular and molecular characterization in hopes of advancing cancer research and enabling more precise diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
Olympus will be working with two institutes at USC: the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine and the Translational Imaging Center (TIC), which focus on changing cancer treatment through transdisciplinary, patient-centered research programs and the advancement of biological imaging, respectively. For its part, Olympus specializes in innovative imaging technologies and healthcare solutions. Among those leading the partnership are Dr. David Agus, founding director of the Ellison Institute, and Dr. Scott Fraser, director of the TIC.
“Cancer medicine is at a crossroads,” said Agus. “Molecular research has shown that hundreds of genes and proteins are involved, making it difficult to envision how genetic approaches and standard treatments will cure cancer. Because of this, USC and Olympus have assembled a powerful team of translational researchers, clinicians and technologists to advance diagnostic capabilities toward precision medicine.”
“Life happens in 3D, and the USC-Olympus Innovation Partnership in Multiscale Bioimaging brings Olympus expertise in 3D imaging and our extensive track record in the GI space together with USC’s multidimensional approach to precision medicine,” added Randy Clark, president, Medical Systems Group, Olympus Corporation of the Americas. “We couldn’t be more excited to be working with such visionaries in the fight against cancer.”
Brendan Brinkman, Olympus’ senior marketing manager of its Life Science Microscopy operation, tells DDNews that in addition to “a collaborative intellectual property element,” Olympus will be loaning specific equipment for this agreement, including the IX83, the VS120 slide scanning system and the FV3000 confocal microscope, which also features NoviSight, a 3D high-content analysis software.
“USC approached Olympus initially because we had a demonstrated expertise in both medical endoscopy and scientific microscopy, but it was really an ideal time to approach us since we’d long been having discussions internally about ways to have greater synergy between our medical and scientific divisions,” he says of the origins of this partnership. “And for us at Olympus, the expertise and scientific horsepower at USC are amazing, and looking at their medical, scientific and optical understanding made this partnership really attractive. Both at the Ellison Institute and TIC, they’ve really demonstrated a great understanding of how to approach new methods and new optical technologies, and bring a significant multi-layered set of expertise to the partnership.”
Brinkman notes that the initial agreement is slated to run three years, but that there is a possibility to expand it and that they have made encouraging progress so far. He adds that the work is all for research use only.
“Cancer is a very heterogeneous disease, varying from patient to patient and cancer type. The term multiscale in the central context of this partnership really refers to understanding the totality of contributors to cancer and its treatment, from the whole patient down to the cellular, molecular and genetic levels, and the ability to engage in precision medicine for an individual patient using all of the tools at our disposal,” he explains. “In our case, that involves the use and development of optical tools including microscopy to examine patient samples from the macro scale to micro scale. So we can, for instance, examine the effect of anti-cancer drugs on patient-derived tumor organoids, or better understand the margins of a tumor biopsy, or compare whole-slide visual pathology images across many patients and to really link the microscopic variability in tissues to the more coarse-grained predictors of cancer progression and metastasis.
“There are a lot of different ways of looking at cancer, and by viewing things in a multitude of ways and applying new optical technologies to better visualize physiologically relevant samples like tumor organoids and computational technology like artificial intelligence and true 3D analysis of these kinds of patient-derived samples, we can look at an array of data, and we believe—both us and USC—that we can provide a more precise set of information to help treat a specific patient’s cancer.”