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PathCore chief executive officer Dan Hosseinzadeh co-founded the company four years ago.

JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

PathCore Inc. is one of the five semi-finalists in The Globe and Mail's Small Business Challenge Contest. (Check out the other four here.) The 2015 contest drew more than 3,300 entries, and a panel of judges selected the semi-finalists. The winner of the $100,000 business grant – and a suite of secondary prizes – will be announced in September.

There's a tedious precision in the pathology work used to diagnose disease and help doctors prescribe the right course of treatment. Peering through the lens of a microscope, clinical pathologists may need to count cells, assess the density of nuclei and make a call on the aggressiveness of certain proteins based on colour intensity of tissue after a stain has been applied.

Toronto-based PathCore Inc. gives pathologists a tool for analyzing biopsied tissue to determine the presence of cancer cells. The company's software uses image-analysis algorithms that provide precise measures of the indicators of cancer. So instead of relying on manual interpretation of pathology images, doctors can make diagnoses based on a definitive measure.

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"We free pathologists from the tedious job of actually counting cells or having to assess just how red or brown a sample is, which you won't get a hundred per cent agreement on anyway," says PathCore chief executive officer Dan Hosseinzadeh, who co-founded the company four years ago with Anne Martel, an associate professor at the University of Toronto's medical biophysics department and senior scientist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

"Our solution, on the other hand, can measure colour precisely," adds Mr. Hosseinzadeh. "It doesn't say if you have cancer or not, but it provides accurate quantitative information that enables a pathologist to provide diagnoses based on hard statistics."

For patients, this provides added assurance that their treatment is based on the right diagnosis, says Mr. Hosseinzadeh, who is an electrical and computer engineer. "If you're the patient you have to be confident your pathologist got it right."

In addition to its image analysis software, PathCore has built a technology platform that allows healthcare professionals to view and manage pathology data. These high-resolution images translate into large files. At present, Mr. Hosseinzadeh says, the only way to share images with doctors at another site is to copy the images onto a hard drive and mail it.

PathCore's platform, which integrates seamlessly with existing hospital and lab technology, lets authorized users sign on to a secure online portal to view, share and add notes to pathology images.

"This allows for collaboration and much better clinical trials across multiple centres," says Mr. Hosseinzadeh, whose company received a federally funded award last year for its project to use technology to connect healthcare professionals in underserved regions of Nigeria with foreign pathology experts who can remotely assess problematic cases.

PathCore, which generates about $1-million in annual revenue, is now working on a cloud platform, which will reduce the burden of technology infrastructure management in hospitals and labs and create economies of scale for PathCore users. A cloud-based platform would also allow PathCore to provide its solutions via the Web to pathology laboratories around the world.

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The company's technology is being used at a large pathology centre and at an institution that performs clinical trials. Mr. Hosseinzadeh says it's time for a marketing push to put PathCore technology into more labs and hospitals. The Challenge prize money would help the company fund trips to the United States to present PathCore's cloud-based technology to some of the best hospitals in the country. The money will also support the launch of the cloud platform, Mr. Hosseinzadeh says.

"We want to reach as many people as possible, and we want to make our platform the de facto pathology technology," he says. "We know the product works, now it's time to market it."

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