Two decades ago, an engineer named Dirk Soenksen started a small company he named Aperio (Latin for reveal) that would one day make significant contributions to the field of diagnostics. Today, this Vista-based company is a pioneer in digital pathology, an image-based environment for managing pathology information that originates by digitizing a glass slide that has a stained tissue specimen on it. Aperio technology allows pathologists to scan, distribute and analyze these digitized slides within a digital and web-based environment, so pathologists can more efficiently complete their daily tasks.
Aperio was acquired in 2012 by Leica Biosystems, a global leader in workflow solutions and automation and part of Danaher Corporation (DHR), a Fortune 200 science and technology company that is among the top 20 medical device companies in the world by annual revenue.
Below, we get a peek inside Leica Biosystems Vista site and its mission to advance cancer diagnostics and improve lives.
Year Founded: 1999 as Aperio, which was acquired in 2012 by Leica Biosystems
Headquarters: Vista, Calif.
Employees: Approximately 120
Technology: Provides FDA-cleared digital pathology systems for hospitals, and reference labs, as well as research use only solutions for pharmaceutical and research institutions. Leica Biosystems has the biggest patent portfolio and the largest installed base in the field of digital pathology. The company is constantly innovating new products and services for its customers.
Earlier in 2019, the company obtained FDA clearance to utilize the Aperio AT2 DX System, a high-throughput automated scanning and viewing platform, for cancer diagnosis.
In August 2019, Leica Biosystems launched the Aperio GT 450, its next generation digital pathology scanner. This revolutionary new product, targeted for the biopharma and academic research market, uses patented Real Time Focusing (RTF) technology to improve scanning speeds, while simultaneously maintaining excellent optical focus, producing one of the most advanced yet easy to use scanning platforms in the world. The Aperio GT 450 is for research use only and not for use in diagnostic procedures.
Aperio GT 450
Industry Stats: Leica Biosystems is in a growing industry with the likes of other big companies like GE Healthcare, Roche Diagnostics, and Philips Healthcare. In fact, the industry is expected to be worth $5.7 billion by 2020.
“The field of cancer diagnostics is ever growing. It is becoming more personalized and sub-specialized. In other words, doctors are looking for extremely minute traces of cancer cells at the genetic level, “said Pawan Singh, VP of Product Development and Operations, Imaging Solutions and Vista Site Leader, Leica Biosystems. “One of the biggest challenges, however, is the global supply of qualified pathologists. Through the use of digital pathology, healthcare organizations can bridge the gap in global supply of qualified and sub-specialized pathology expertise, which is so vital to impactful cancer research, as well as effective cancer care.”
Market Edge: Leica Biosystems has continued to maintain its leading edge in the industry through its people and innovation, as well as the company’s Danaher Business Systems, a powerful set of tools, processes and a cultural mindset that was adapted from the principles of lean manufacturing that has evolved over many decades.
“One of the core values of DHR is ‘innovation defines our future’,” said Melissa Aquino, President, Leica Biosystems. “This core value has provided a strong focus in building innovative products that address customer needs. This has been an essential ingredient in the company’s market success.”
Science Cluster: Leica Biosystems is one of three science and tech companies along the 78 Corridor that are owned by DHR – Danaher- Beckman Coulter and Radiometer are also located in close proximity in Carlsbad.
“The many science and technology companies within and around the City of Vista attract strong working professionals from all over to come work and live in our beautiful town,” Singh said. “The local schools and colleges in the San Diego area also provide a steady flow of new science, technology and engineering graduates.”
Recent Company Celebration: On July 17, 2019, a few special guests from the City of Vista and over 100+ employees celebrated the 20th anniversary of Aperio’s founding at the company’s current site in Vista, just a few miles away from the garage that was the birthplace of Aperio and digital pathology.
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“Leica Biosystems is committed to the field of cancer diagnostics. This commitment requires a talented, diverse and highly engaged workforce in all Leica Biosystem sites,” said Aquino. “The Vista site is the home of our digital pathology innovation center. This team is responsible for some of the most cutting-edge products in the field of digital pathology.”
During the July celebration, Vista Mayor Judy Ritter presented a proclamation, declaring it Leica Biosystems Aperio Day in the City of Vista.
“We are proud to have life-changing and innovative companies like Leica Biosystems in Vista,” Ritter said. “These companies add to the already vibrant life science and tech clusters that call the San Diego region home, and provide jobs and quality of life to our residents.”
Future: “We have a talented team of professionals at our Leica Biosystems development center and production facility in Vista, and we are actively investing and hiring in this location as we continue to build and shape the exciting future of digital pathology,” Singh said.
Editor’s Note: Innovation Hub is a series celebrating the extraordinary companies that call Vista home. From healthcare tech to precision medicine, electronics, AI, software, cybersecurity, manufacturing and more, this series takes a deeper dive into the innovative industries that make up the collaborative culture of this diverse city.
Economic Development contact for the City of Vista:
Kevin Ham Economic Development Director