CECAD Scientists win “start-up your idea” competition


Powering the fight against Cancer with AI – that is the vision of the “Cell ImAIging” Team. With this idea, Cell ImAlging prevailed against four other innovative ideas in the finals

Bernhard Röck (Garcia-Saez lab), AI Developer Michael Vorndran, Pavana Lakshmi Vaddavalli (Schumacher Lab), and Professor Ana Garcia-Saez form the Team “Cell ImAlging”. With their idea of high throughput detection and analysis of cell death from live-cell microscopy images, they entered the 'start-up your idea' competition organized by the Gateway Excellence Start-up Center of the University of Cologne.

Out of 28 innovative ideas, Cell ImAlging made it to the final with four other teams. Here, the team pitched their idea to a digital audience and a jury of experts, and won the first prize: €5,000 and support from experts in setting up the start-up.

“From analyzing images of cancer cells as the first stage, we further aim to develop the software as a diagnostic tool to analyze images of pre-clinical mouse tissue sections, and finally human patient samples for cancer detection,” said cell death expert Garcia-Saez.

The software can improve the efficiency of large-scale cancer drug screening - where cancer cells are treated with potential drug candidates to identify those which result in death of cancer cells.

“Our unique feature is that different types of cell death can be distinguished, and label-free cell death analysis can be performed without the use of fluorescent cell death markers,” said Röck. “This will lead to more accurate results and more information on mechanism of action of the potential drug.”

Once the software is running it will provide a sustainable approach to accelerate the identification of new cell-death modulating drugs against cancer. “We want to go directly to pharmaceutical companies with our solution, show them our demos and explain how things are better with our help," said Vaddavalli.