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German health R&D center launches photonics firms

23 Jan 2014

In 2013, three new spin-off companies emerged from Helmholtz Zentrum Munich.

Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German research center for environmental health, has announced that it launched three new photonics-related spin-offs during 2013: SurgVision, Dosimetrics and Trianta Immunotherapies. By successful innovation management, the Center has again transformed significant research findings into practical applications and created new service providers for clinical imaging, radiation dosimetry and immunotherapy, respectively.


Launched in August 2013, start-up SurgVision B.V., based in Heerenveen, Netherlands, develops optically-based systems that enable live molecular imaging during surgical procedures. Fluorescence staining of tumor tissue enables surgeons to better discriminate between healthy and cancerous tissue during an operation and to remove the tumor tissue more effectively.

An initial clinical study on SurgVision’s image-guided surgical procedures for breast cancer patients is nearing its conclusion. Other potential applications are also being evaluated. This spin-off company is based on the research results of the Leibniz Prize recipient Professor Vasilis Ntziachristos, director of the Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging at Helmholtz Zentrum München, in collaboration with the University Medical Center Groningen. A license agreement between HMGU and SurgVision was signed in September 2013.

Optical luminescence

In September 2013, Dosimetrics GmbH was founded as producer and service provider for personal dose monitoring of radiation, known as dosimetry. The newly developed optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) technology enables rapid determination and readout of ionizing radiation in individuals.

The new company, headed by CEO Gerd Ledtermann, offers this service to companies whose employees are exposed to radiation sources. This spin-off is based on the extensive research expertise of the radiation dose monitoring service at HMGU, which is the largest personal dosimeter monitoring facility in Europe.

Optically stimulated luminescence is based on beryllium oxide (BeO). Dosimetrics’ OSL dosimeters monitor a person’s “Personal Dose Equivalents”, known as Hp(10) and Hp (0.07). The dosimeters cover the full energy range from 16 keV to more than 10 MeV. It works like this: two beryllium oxide chips are molded in a bar-coded plastic slide, which is mounted in a badge to be worn by radiation-exposed workers. The badge is ultrasonically welded to ensure it functions a lightproof dosimeter. Dosimetrics says that due to its “almost tissue equivalency” BeO is suitable for dosimetric applications.

Cancer treatment

Trianta Immunotherapies GmbH, founded in September 2013, develops immunotherapies to treat cancer. By means of adoptive T-cell therapies and personalized vaccines derived from dendritic cells, the human immune system is stimulated to act against cancer cells. Trianta is based on many years' intensive R&D by the director of the Institute of Molecular Immunology, Professor Dolores Schendel and her team at HMGU, partially in collaboration with Professor Thomas Blankenstein at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine Berlin-Buch (MDC).

The spin-offs are supported and promoted by the Department of Innovation Management at HMGU together with the technology transfer partner Ascenion GmbH. Ascenion holds an equity stake in the spin-offs SurgVision and Trianta Immunotherapies. At the start of 2014, Helmholtz Zentrum München closed license agreements with Trianta and Dosimetrics. These secure the spin-offs' exclusive global rights to patents and technical expertise.

The latest set of start-up companies continues Helmholtz Zentrum München's pattern of successful launches. At present there are 15 active spin-off companies that have originated at Helmholtz Zentrum München, with a total of 400 employees.

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

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