Aignostics, a spin-off from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) pioneering computational pathology for pharmaceutical research and diagnostics, has announced the closing of a €5 M seed round funding. Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF) led the round, with participation from High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF), VC Fonds Technologie der IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft, and Future Capital.
Aignostics formally started out in early 2018, when researchers from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the TU Berlin enrolled in the Digital Health Accelerator (DHA) programme of the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) to bring their innovative research in computational pathology and Explainable AI to the outside world.
The groundwork for Aignostics, however, was laid earlier by Prof. Frederick Klauschen, Deputy Director of Charité’s Institute of Pathology, and researchers from Fraunhofer Society and TU Berlin, led by Prof. Klaus-Robert Müller, Director of the Berlin Center for Machine Learning, who published their first patent in machine learning for pathology in 2011 already. Having studied both physics and medicine, Prof. Klauschen was an early believer in the potential of AI in pathology. "While pathologists are outstanding in interpreting morphological features in individual samples, AI has the upper hand when it comes to quantifying morphological features in a precise and standardized fashion, or drawing deeper conclusions for larger data sets, for instance in clinical trials and research," Klauschen explains.
This especially holds true for Aignostics’ proprietary ‘Explainable AI’ platform, which draws on research from Fraunhofer Society, Charité and TU Berlin to overcome the typical ‘black-box’ problem of AI in pathology. "Explainable AI is an emerging hot field in modern AI with high potential both in the sciences and industry," states Prof. Müller. "For instance, we can train our AI with samples of positive and negative responses to a specific therapy. Next, we can ‘explain’ how the AI learned to differentiate these cases by visualizing morphological features that determined the AI model’s decision," Dr Maximilian Alber, CTO of Aignostics, explains. "This technology is not only crucial in routine diagnostics, where it can help verify the correct training of AI-powered applications, but it is also a powerful tool to uncover potential novel biomarkers that can predict therapy success," Prof. Klauschen adds.
"What makes us unique is not just our technology, but also our organisational set up. We have comprehensive access to key data modalities and pathologists, which allows us to develop bespoke AI models for clinical trials and CDx development. Moreover, with our closeness to Charité and TU Berlin, we develop our applications side-by-side with computer scientists, medical researchers and surgical pathologists as ‘end users’ alike," Viktor Matyas, CEO of Aignostics, explains. "We are also very thankful for the support we had from the Charité, the BIH, and Ascenion, who played a crucial role in taking us to where we are today," he adds.
Aignostics will use the funds to expand its portfolio in pharmaceutical research and fund longer-term projects aimed at developing companion/complementary diagnostics (CDx) applications for clinical routine. "We are excited about the novel Aignostics technology and think that it will provide great value for patients by allowing for a more specific diagnosis and therefore personalized treatment options," Dr. Alexander Ehlgen from BIVF notes.