Lab slide automation by Peterborough partners
August 7, 2019
PETERBOROUGH, Ont. – With more than 1.82 million laboratory tests performed at Peterborough Regional Health Centre every year, the work that happens in the lab is crucial in supporting patient diagnosis. As part of this work, laboratory staff were spending upwards of six hours each day manually filing and sorting slides containing tissue and cell samples – a situation common in labs around the world.
Bernard Schaan (pictured on left), manager of the laboratory at PRHC came up with a solution – all he needed was someone who could help bring his vision to life. He soon connected with Lab Improvements, a Peterborough start-up that was seeking out opportunities for exactly this sort of innovation.
The local engineering company specializes in laboratory automation, and was able to manufacture exactly what Bernard had envisioned – an automated slide sorting and filing machine that is the first of its kind worldwide.
Guided by the valuable input of Lori White, a Medical Laboratory Technologist (MLT) with PRHC, the two organizations worked together to develop the benchtop device – called SlideTrack – that is now automating the filing and sorting of more than 125,000 slides that used to be filed manually by laboratory staff at PRHC each year.
The SlideTrack device allows the laboratory team to find samples more quickly, ultimately leading to faster patient diagnosis. Staff now spend minutes filing slides, rather than hours, freeing them up to do more valuable work.
SlideTrack was designed and developed in a way that would work for PRHC and for other labs across Ontario. PRHC and Lab Improvements received a $25,000 development grant and a $15,000 procurement grant from MaRS (North America’s largest innovation hub) for this project.
“It was very beneficial to work with a company in the design phase, because you were getting an instrument that was built for the job that you want it to do,” says Bernard. “This technology will be transformative, not only for the laboratory at PRHC, but for labs across Canada and around the world.”
“This brand-new device was developed in Peterborough, by a Peterborough lab and a Peterborough company,” says Alex Bushell (pictured on right), CEO and co-founder of Lab Improvements. “That makes it very unique. In terms of laboratory inventions, these things usually come from really high-level, multinational companies. Very rarely is something like this developed in a small Ontario city.”
Lab Improvements is a client of the Innovation Cluster, a not-for-profit organization that assists technology-based start-ups in the formation and growth of their companies. As a client of the Cluster, Lab Improvements was able to make essential connections in the community to enhance their product development.
“Lab Improvements has been a client of the Innovation Cluster in Peterborough and the Kawarthas since 2014 and has come a long way since their idea was conceived,” says John Gillis, President & CEO of the Innovation Cluster. “SlideTrack will now put them on the world stage of healthcare technology.”
Interest in the new device has begun to spread, and a number of other hospitals have already visited PRHC to see SlideTrack in action.
To recognize PRHC and the Peterborough community for their support, Lab Improvements has committed to donating $2,000 to the PRHC Foundation for each SlideTrack sold. These funds will support future investments into necessary equipment and technology for the PRHC Laboratory.