Great Minds Think Alike: fostering SWIR imaging technology by bringing experts together

Emily Cosco ©Helmholtz Zentrum München/Carolin Jacklin

For two days in May, Dr. Oliver Bruns and his team organised the first international SWIR imaging workshop at the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus (HPC) in Munich. Participants at the meeting discussed their latest insights into SWIR imaging and how to accelerate its deployment for both clinical and pre-clinical research.

Starting from here, Dr. Bruns’s ambition is to establish HPC as a hub for SWIR technology, connecting the researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum München with international experts at UCLA, NIH, Imperial College London, and the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) in Berlin.

SWIR imaging is an emerging technology with biomedical applications that provides several advantages over currently used imaging methods.
To help accelerate widespread research into the applications of SWIR technologies, Dr. Bruns is working to establish a network for sharing information across disciplines, including chemistry for probe development, optical design for imaging instruments, and computer sciences for handling large data sets. Bridging these disciplines will make it easier for researchers and clinicians to use the technology in their own practice.

I established collaborations with many of the researchers pioneering SWIR while we were working together at MIT. Many went on to start their own groups at recognized research institutions and are becoming leading experts in their respective fields said Dr. Bruns “Being distributed around the world, it was extremely exciting for us to gather for about two days and reflect on the various aspects of our SWIR imaging-based research, while strategizing where this should go”. 

The discussions centered around probe development and biological applications, standardizing instrumentation and future clinical translation. 

Dr. Martin Schnermann, working at the National Cancer Institute, USA, shared his expertise in organic synthesis of SWIR dyes and application in tumor models. I met Oliver at an imaging conference at Janelia farm a couple years ago” said Dr. Schnermann “I think his idea to bring together this broad group of scientists and discuss where this field will go next is quite useful because this is a decisive moment in time. I think building larger, collaborative and academically dominated teams will be critical to the success of the technology. Also, as a probe developer, I think it is useful to bring together our very specific expertise with tentative probe users to better understand experimental bottlenecks and needs.

In the next months, Dr. Bruns and the group of international investigators will be preparing the next steps for the broader roll out of the SWIR imaging technology, using the just emerging HPC at the Helmholtz Zentrum München as central hub and coordinating focal point. 
Dr. Bruns notes I would like to build a SWIR imaging community and use HPC as a base to push forward common agendas, organize collaborations, involve many more research groups, and most importantly: define global SWIR standards, probe characterization and publishing benchmarks to ensure reproducible data.