Thought Leadership

February 26, 2018

What You Can Learn about Artificial Intelligence from a Healthcare Pathology Pioneer

Kathleen Reynolds

This is part of a three-part series on Emerging Technologies’ impact on public relations and marketing. Sign up for the CooperKatz newsletter to get relevant insights and updates directly to your inbox.


Do a news search for “AI healthcare startup” and you’ll see north of 125,000 results. Artificial Intelligence is sweeping through healthcare, with the potential to improve disease diagnoses, treatments, workflows and bottom lines. Yet cutting through the already noisy AI market requires a clear story and deft PR approach.


CooperKatz recently led the strategic announcement for Paige.AI, the Pathology AI Guidance Engine, which aims to transform pathology from a qualitative to a quantitative discipline. Through PR, we were tasked to create a multi-prong media plan to reach several audiences: business leaders, the healthcare industry, technologists, potential Paige.AI partners, recruits, prospective clients, patients, caregivers and more.


Our press release was timed to follow an exclusive story secured in The Wall Street Journal. An additional embargo strategy paired with aggressive follow-up generated features in TechCrunch, VentureBeat, MedCityNews, Business Insider and more than a dozen articles, along with speaking invitations.


The news appeal of the story is clear. Paige.AI is a decision support system – not a replacement – for pathologists. The company has powerful momentum via exclusive licensed access to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s digitized pathology archive – one of the largest of its kind, comprised of millions of annotated, de-identified patient slides. And Paige.AI just closed on a successful $25 million Series A round, led by veteran investor Jim Breyer (an early backer of Facebook, Etsy and many AI ventures).


The start-up is founded by Dr. Thomas Fuchs, the director of computational pathology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In his past life, Dr. Fuchs worked on the Mars Rover and autonomous space exploration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. So what can a rocket scientist teach us about AI and cancer? It turns out some of the same algorithms used to identify terrain on Mars are useful in differentiating cancerous from benign tissues.  


As PR storytellers and strategists, we at CooperKatz thrive at the intersection of healthcare and technology. Here are three reasons healthcare professionals – as well as AI leaders in any sector – should take a page from the pioneers at MSK and Paige.AI:


1) Artificial Intelligence can free up experts to focus on higher-level tasks.

Pathologists serve as the cornerstone in diagnosing disease. Yet even in premier institutions, pathologists historically have been inundated by manual processes which haven’t evolved in 100 years. In a breast biopsy, they must individually review dozens of glass slides, even though only a few of that count may be central to diagnosis. Multiply this by scores of patients and all those slides (and time) add up. The valuable capacity and expertise of pathologists are far from optimized. Isn’t it time to free up these experts to focus on higher-level tasks, instead of measuring nuclei, point to point? What if AI-driven platforms could immediately help a pathologist narrow in on the handful of slides which matter? Alleviating pathologists’ workflow becomes an even more acute need when considering the imminent shortage of practicing pathologists – compounded by the increase of screenings as detection begins to take place earlier and more often.


2) AI can improve access to medical insights and experience often only found in academic medical centers.

In more remote areas of the U.S., a pathologist may only come across a rare cancer every few years, if that often. When she does, she must rely on memory or perhaps colleagues’ anecdotes to inform the diagnosis and recommendation. What if she could, in essence, do an instantaneous Google Image-type search via Paige.AI of millions of other pathology slides? Results of this search would be layered with expert clinical annotations, as well as patient care pathways and outcomes. Don’t patients deserve a clinical team that leverages every available insight and experience, no matter where they may be located?


3) AI can help address challenging situations in other regions of the world where deeper diagnostic support is needed.

One such example is in Mexico, where cervical cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women. This reality is heartbreaking since cervical cancer is preventable and treatable if caught early. Prevention and pap smears are crucial. Yet even for women who are screened, some cases are missed or ignored because there are not enough pathologists in the country to analyze the samples. What if a clinically-validated AI model could help significantly scale the diagnostics capabilities of each existing pathologist?


Both the needs and potential for solutions like Paige.AI are real. And so is our sense of contribution when we help write a successful “Chapter One” to an incredible, evolving AI story.


We are happy to connect with you about how to develop the right PR strategy if you’re in healthcare or AI.  You can also learn more about other case studies here.


Note: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Paige.AI are clients of CooperKatz.


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