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Online COVID-19 Digital Pathology Repository Provides Clinical Pathologists with Access to High-Quality COVID-19 Tissue Images

CDC COVID pathology slide

Clinical pathologists can now access high-quality COVID-19 tissue images with online tool hosted by NIH.

Indica Labs and Octo announced the recent development of an online COVID-19 digital pathology repository, the COVID Digital Pathology Repository (COVID-DPR). This virtual collection of high-resolution microscopic COVID-19 related human tissue images is hosted online by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Indica Labs is a provider of computational pathology software, and Octo is an information technology systems provider to the federal government. 

The COVID-DPR was initially announced May 21, 2020, and awareness of this useful tool has continued to increase since then. According to a statement by Indica Labs, the COVID-DPR was developed in response to challenges in accessing tissue specimens from COVID-19 patients.

“Only a few organizations are equipped with the viral containment facilities to perform autopsies and collect tissues from patients who succumb to the disease,” Indica Labs stated as part of the announcement. “These tissues are critical for researchers who are investigating the pathology, treatment and prevention of COVID-19 infection.”

Whole-Slide Image Repository Intended for COVID-Related Histopathology

“COVID-DPR was created to enable international collaboration by providing a centralized, cloud-based repository for sharing and annotating digital whole slide images of lung, liver, kidney and heart tissues from patients infected with COVID19, as well as the closely related coronaviruses associated with SARs and MERs,” the Indica Labs statement continued. “The whole slide images, annotations, and metadata in the repository will be used as a reference data set for education, research and future clinical trials aimed at limiting further infection, disease, and death.”

The repository allows biomedical scientists to securely view and analyze whole-slide images. Functionality within the tool allows scientists to make annotations and share with colleagues under NIH guidelines. The COVID-DPR tool is evolving, and clinical pathologists can submit images to the repository.

Steven Hashagen, CEO at Indica Labs called the COVID-DPR “a much-needed global integration for COVID-19 pathology and a framework for the implementation of further cutting-edge technologies. Deployment of the HALO Link platform will provide data availability and allow real-time collaboration between the world’s leading clinical institutions at this critical time in our battle against the novel Coronavirus.”

COVID-19 Reference Datasets Could Inform Clinical Pathologists

In September 2019, Dr. Susan Gregurick (above) became Director of the Office of Data Science Strategy at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Gregurick helps lead NIH efforts in coordinating and collaborating with appropriate government agencies, international funders, private organizations, and stakeholders engaged in scientific data generation, management, and analysis. Medical investigators hope to learn more about SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and COVID-19 disease through a new COVID Digital Repository (DPR), Gregurick and colleagues recently announced. (Photo source: NIH)

Susan Gregurick, PhD, NIH Associate Director for Data Science and Director of the Office of Data Science Strategy (ODSS), emphasized the importance of the COVID-DPR to better understand the effects of COVID-19 on the human body and to make progress in alleviating those effects. “Researchers need to have timely access to clinical and imaging data,” Gregurick said as part of the announcement. “The COVID-19 digital pathology repository is a significant step in this direction. This resource provides all investigators a platform to access important reference datasets, and in the next iteration, to support clinical trials research and provide datasets for computational studies based on imaging analysis and artificial intelligence, which are essential capabilities for defeating COVID-19.”

The pathologists behind the COVID digital pathology repository effort include Stephen M. Hewitt, MD, PhD, and David E. Kleiner, MD, PhD, both of the National Cancer Institute, NIH; Zisis Kozlakidis, BSc, PhD, of Laboratory Services and Biobank Group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer; as well as Lara Barisoni, MD, of Duke University School of Medicine; and William D. Travis, MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

The new innovation of the NIH COVID Digital Pathology Repository provides a valuable tool for clinical pathologists and researchers who need to access a large variety of high-quality tissue samples. The online accessibility makes the COVID-DPR especially useful in permitting access and communication from remote locations for pathologists who may have limited access to tissue samples or who are working from home.

Caleb Williams

—By Caleb Williams, Editor, COVID-19 STAT

Related Resources:

NIH: COVID Digital Pathology Repository

Indica Labs, Octo and Axle work with NIH to launch a global COVID-19 digital pathology repository