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Q&A with NovoPath CEO: Convergence of Anatomic and Molecular Diagnostics

NovoPath CEO, Promise Okeke

The rapid adoption of molecular diagnostics has not gone unnoticed. From the explosion of covid labs in the past couple of years to anatomic pathology labs expanding their test menus to incorporate molecular tests such as FISH, NGS, or Hematopathology.

As this trend does not seem to be slowing down any time soon, earlier this week, we sat down with Promise Okeke, CEO of NovoPath to discuss the challenges that face anatomic pathology labs and his thoughts on the convergence of anatomic and molecular diagnostics.

Thanks for joining me today Promise. I know you’ve got a lot going on so let’s just jump in. For starters, you joined NovoPath as CEO around two years ago, how has the journey been so far?  

It’s exciting times here at NovoPath. I have been fascinated with the diagnostic industry for a very long time going back to when I was a researcher focusing on stem cells, oncology, and hematopathology. I truly do love coming to work and making a difference within diagnostics. The team here at NovoPath is great and I am proud and grateful to lead and grow the company to new heights.

Today’s pathology labs have their fair share of struggles, where do you see most struggling today?

Great question, as there are many hurdles today’s labs must overcome, from shrinking reimbursements to labor shortages. What we are seeing is a lot of laboratories are really struggling with efficiency and profitability, which of course exacerbates the uncontrolled external factors we are seeing today.

For example, it’s common practice to simply hire more people when a lab wants to increase case volume. More people equals more processed cases, in turn increasing overall lab volume. However, in the post-pandemic world, with everything that’s happened from inflation to wage growth to the scarcity of labor – hiring more and more people is not a viable solution anymore. 

This is one of the reasons why NovoPath is heavily invested in helping laboratories become efficient. Because we understand the power of efficiency and its ability to be used as a tool to overcome today’s challenges.

For laboratories that are trying to grow organically, where do you see the biggest opportunity for them?

For an anatomic pathology lab, there are a lot of ways to grow. The most common one we see is by expanding their test menus. Some of them do so by designing their own lab-developed tests, and increasingly, others are organically growing by bringing molecular diagnostics in-house.

This is where I see the convergence of anatomic and molecular diagnostics really happening, especially with labs that are forward-thinking and looking for ways to remain competitive in a consolidating market.

A key driver of this trend is physicians and healthcare systems are tired of coordinating efforts, billing, and resulting from multiple reference labs. They are turning to labs that can offer a comprehensive test menu, thereby streaming their vendors – hence the convergence of anatomic and molecular diagnostics.

Where do you see molecular diagnostics going in the next couple of years?

You know what they say, there is always a good side to everything. I believe that it goes for COVID-19 as well. A byproduct of COVID-19 and the democratization of PCR has put more emphasis on molecular diagnostics than ever before. COVID-19 has helped the adoption of using molecular scaffolding of diseases to diagnose and prognosticate diseases, creating today’s precision medicine approach.

As more and more molecular pathology data becomes available, we’re going to see better treatments and therapies for patients with broader cancer types. If we can better understand where the genetic mutation is happening, oncologists will be better equipped to design the best treatment option. In the near future, I see a world where 70 – 80% of AP labs will have certain molecular tests on their test menu.

For lab leaders who are looking to add molecular testing to their menus, what advice would you give them?

Plan, then plan, and then plan a bit more. What I mean by this is laboratories need to make sure they fully understand what they are going to do before jumping in. Molecular compared to AP is not the same game. It requires different workflows, different instruments, different staff, different pathology reports, etc. 

For example, lab leaders need to be asking questions like “how will you combine your molecular and anatomic reports?” Will you need manual effort to do so? Is there a LIS that can offer comprehensive and continuous reporting?

When mapping out your requirements and plan, my advice is to always network with people who have already implemented a molecular lab, understand what hardships they had, and learn how they overcame them. Then secondly, work with best-in-class platforms. How do you know if a vendor is best in class? They will walk you through their perspective on molecular workflow best practices. 

5 Reasons Anatomic Pathology Labs Must Expand into Molecular Pathology

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NovoPath just released a winter release, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Sure, I’d be happy to. The team here at NovoPath is laser-focused on enabling precision medicine through innovation and technology. We want to continue to lead and push the envelope of diagnostic technologies that will enable better treatments for patients – like you and me! Our winter release provides a platform with the ability to execute anatomic and molecular testing from a single LIS and enables labs with the ability to have continuous reporting.

Continuous reporting?  Can you elaborate on what that is exactly?

Sure, continuous reporting is a brand-new capability of NovoPath 360. It’s essentially a new format for continuously resulting for each ancillary test result as soon as they are interpreted into one single aggregate report, making the need for amendments and addendum reports unnecessary.  

Being able to provide comprehensive reports removes the manual efforts of compiling reports and gives a tremendous amount of time back to users.  

Now physicians can draw better conclusions by being able to look at all the different tests at the same time before they can really have the right interpretation.   

For example, chemotherapy is a standard cancer therapy for certain cancers. Well as pathology has evolved, we’ve realized that chemotherapy works in some cases, and it doesn’t work in other types of cancer. Cancer is a heterogeneous disease. What I mean by that is, for example, an overexpression of EGFR could be due to a heterogenous set of gene mutations, and as such, performing the right type of ancillary tests could help the provider in understanding the right treatment package.  

With NovoPath, we enable labs with the optimal tools for ordering, performing, and resulting ancillary tests necessary for providing quality care to cancer patients.

Well Promise, it looks like my time is up here, but do appreciate your time and insights. I look forward to sharing more of what the team is doing.

We encourage everyone to check out our latest release and see NovoPath 360 newest capability – continuous reporting.  

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