TUCSON, Ariz.—IBM, array-microscope technology developer DMetrix and San Mateo, Calif.-based life sciences and pharmaceutical image informatics solution provider BioImagene, recently announced that ultra-rapid whole-slide imaging and large-scale scientific image management have been integrated for first time.
The work on the "Arizona system," as DMetrix and BioImagene call it, is designed to accommodate as much as 33 terabytes of image data and manage more than 100,000 high-resolution images and was completed at The Arizona Cancer Center.
Perhaps just as important as bringing a substantial bit of business to DMetrix, BioImagene and IBM—which worked closely together but billed their services separately—this deployment can serve as a guide and example for other organizations to adopt for image handling functions and for the three companies to team together again, says Dr. Michael R. Descour, president of DMetrix.
"This is a great template that can be ported to any organization that is interested in digital pathology or similar imaging applications," he maintains. "And one of the best things is that it is designed to be scaled up or down, particularly in terms of storage capacity. So, people can start on a lower scale when not sure how fast and how far their digital imaging will grow. But the package is designed to be added on to as data accumulates. Basically, you don't have to go out and take a big risk from the start."
Although the system for the Arizona Cancer Center is not specific just to drug discovery, Descour says the template is valuable for drug discovery efforts, whether a company is solely dedicated to discovery or does discovery as part of wider pharmaceutical efforts.
"In discovery work, you might be doing a great deal of pathology or other imaging work, and you can accumulate a huge number of slides," he points out. "This kind of system allows you to decentralize that data by making digital images of the slides and being able to review them from anywhere via Web-based portals. That cuts down on travel costs and shipping costs, which can be critical as budgets tighten and research dollars become harder to get."
In addition, with the informatics power of BioImagene's Scientific Image Management System (SIMS) on board, users can—in addition to simply viewing digital images the same one would through a microscope—view images at a "very sophisticated level where images are processed to reveal information that would not be readily available just on a visual review of the slides," Descour says.
"Data management is always a challenge when generating large amounts of large data sets, and the system we have designed in collaboration with DMetrix, BioImagene, and IBM is unprecedented in scope and integration," says Dr. Robert Gillies, professor of biochemistry, physiology, and radiology at the University of Arizona, who helped to design the Arizona system. "We expect that this system will enable cancer specimens to be evaluated at multiple sites across the country and this will go a long way toward making these data available to a wider audience. It will also allow us to observe and analyze tissues in their full three-dimensional representations, which we expect will enable us to investigate spatially-specific gene expression patterns."
In terms of system specifics, the Arizona system integrates DMetrix's DX-40 scanner with BioImagene's SIMS. Where IBM comes into the Arizona system's implementation is in the company's eServer xSeries systems, which operate all software and hardware components, and the Tivoli Storage Manager, which automates data backup and archiving and protects data from hardware failures and other errors.
Images are produced at high-throughput speeds and at high resolution with DMetrix's DX-40 automated slide scanner, Descour notes, and users can access image data and metadata through a secure Web site.