Enhancing children's health with Helmholtz Enterprise Grant

Thomas Bischof, independent project leader in Oliver Bruns´s lab, received a Helmholtz Enterprise Grant to accelerate the market entry of a new medical device for non-invasive diagnostics of the ear, nose and throat. The grant facilitated recruitment of Bunyamin Pekdemir, an entrepreneurial-minded engineer. We inquired with Thomas and Bunyamin about the progress towards their spin-off!


Thomas, with Bunyamin onboard, what are your next crucial steps? Where does the the project stand?
Up to now the work has primarily been on the scientific front, where we have demonstrated the essential concepts both in the laboratory and in the clinic. As the team starts growing, we can accelerate on multiple fronts. Our main attention will be on improving the actual device to make it ready for widespread usage. In parallel we will focus on the foundations to build a successful start-up – beginning with wider marketing of the product.

What new capabilities does the entrepreneurial funding from the Helmholtz Association add to your ambition? How do Bunyamin’s skills complement your own experience for faster market entry?
Building a start-up is a full-time effort, and the funding from the Helmholtz Association allows me to focus exclusively on building our future company at all levels. Bunyamin brings a unique combination of skills to the team, both on the engineering side but also for the business development, due to his own track-record incorporating a company. His knowledge allows us to move more quickly and easily adapt to changing circumstances.

The goal of the Helmholtz Enterprise Grant is to support the spin-off activities of scientists within the Helmholtz community. What are your specific plans here?
The infrared imaging technology has matured significantly in recent years, revealing new opportunities for its translation into viable clinical products. The Helmholtz Enterprise Grant supports our ideas by providing valuable time and resources for thorough product development and testing, as well as carving out our specific business concept. That includes critical market validation and technology scale-up. Our ultimate goal is to bring our novel and unique diagnostic device to most widespread application while building a successful and sustainable enterprise.

Bunyamin, first of all, welcome to Munich and the potential first HPC startup. What exactly fascinates you about Thomas's project and why did you decide to join HPC?
I am very excited to be a part of the HPC in Munich. When I had the first interview with Thomas, there were several points that fascinated me about the project: the strong scientific foundation behind the project, Thomas’ competence and ambition to make things happen and the opportunity to make a difference in children's health.
I am particularly happy to join the HPC as it is an innovation-driven research institution that enables me (and others) to utilize my mechanical and biomedical engineering skills and business experience to make a difference for patients.

You completed one of your degrees at the University of New York. What was the focus of your work there?
I have two master degrees, one in Biomedical Engineering and the other in Mechanical Engineering. I acquired the Mechanical Engineering degree in the City University of New York (CUNY). For my master’s project at CUNY, I developed a device that stimulates nerve endings in the context of physiotherapy, suitable for use in the patient’s homes. The focus of my Biomedical Engineering work at Heidelberg University was on EchoTrack, an ultrasound-guided electromagnetic navigation system for minimally invasive interventions at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. While continuing on EchoTrack as a research engineer, I also contributed to the development of multispectral imaging technologies in the DKFZ’s Biophotonics group.

What are your goals and ambitions for the work at Helmholtz Munich, at the Pioneer Campus and in the ‘Enginears’ project?
I will put my best efforts into our mutual goals: bringing our device to market with a sustainable business model. The Pioneer Campus provides the relevant environment and resources, together with the Helmholtz Association grant, to achieve our vision of incorporating a successful start-up. I am driven by the prospect of delivering a new diagnostic tool that improves children's health, enables precise diagnoses for the physicians’ and this at a reduced cost for the health economy.