Sloan Kettering’s deal with digital pathology startup draws backlash

An agreement between artificial intelligence (AI) startup Paige.AI and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York is drawing backlash over the company’s exclusive rights to the cancer center’s 25 million pathology slide images, The New York Times reported.

Founded by three Sloan Kettering employees, Paige.AI raised $25 million in venture capital earlier this year. The New York hospital holds equity stake in the startup, along with a member of the cancer center’s executive board, its pathology department chairman and the head of one of its research labs.

Pathologists at the hospital “strongly” objected to the deal, noting the founders should not receive equity in the company that was built on their last 60 years of work, the Times reported. Additionally, doctors there said patients are nervous about their pathology slides being used for profit, despite being used anonymously.

“It just seems awfully coincidental that the individuals involved happen to be people in control and influence of that asset, and they ended up with an exclusive use of it,” said Marcus S. Owens, a Washington lawyer who ran the Internal Revenue Service division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, to the Times. “It seems to create a cascading series of conflicts for the operation of Sloan Kettering.”

Officials from the cancer center said they acted “properly” in approving the deal and that, if successful, could change cancer care, according to the report.

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