Aignostics, a spin-off from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Berlin Institute of Health, pioneering computational pathology for pharmaceutical research and diagnostics, has announced today the closing of €5m in seed round funding. Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF) led the round, with participation from the 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.
About Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund GmbH
Operating as a separate legal entity, the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF) drives innovation through its strategic investments in early-stage science and technology. With an investment volume of 300 million Euro, the Venture Fund invests in biotech and start-up companies with innovative concepts and technologies that have the potential to provide ground-breaking platforms. BIVF currently holds a portfolio of 34 companies and creates companies when it identifies promising research projects in university and academia. BIVF’s interest in young, mainly technology-oriented companies demonstrates its commitment to investigate new ideas and new science to create options for Boehringer Ingelheim to expand into new approaches and businesses in the field of Oncology, Regenerative Medicine, Infectious Diseases and Digital Health
About the High-Tech Gründerfonds
High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) is a seed investor that finances high-potential, tech-driven start-ups. With around EUR 900 million in total investment volume across three funds and an international network of partners, HTGF has already helped forge almost 600 start-ups since 2005. Driven by their expertise, entrepreneurial spirit and passion, its team of experienced investment managers and startup experts help guide the development of young companies. HTGF’s focus is on high-tech start-ups in the fields of digital business models, industrial technology, life sciences, chemistry and related business areas. To date, external investors have injected over EUR 2.5 billion into the HTGF portfolio via more than 1,600 follow-on financing rounds. HTGF has also successfully sold interests in more than 100 companies. Investors in the public-private partnership include the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy, KfW Capital, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and 32 companies. Our Fund Investors.
Dr. Julian Zachmann
High-Tech Gründerfonds Management GmbH
Tel: +49 170 930 55 17
About IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft
IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft (www.ibb-bet.de) provides venture capital to innovative Berlin-based companies and has established itself as a market leader in the field of early stage financing in Germany. The funds are used primarily for the development and market launch of innovative products or services, as well as for business concepts of creative industries. Currently two of the funds managed by the IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft are in the investment phase, the VC Fonds Technologie Berlin II with a fund size of 60 million euros and the VC Fonds Kreativwirtschaft Berlin II with a fund size of 40 million euros. Both VC funds are financed by means of the Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB) and the European Fund for Regional Development (EFRE) administered by the State Berlin. Since 1997 the IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft, in consortia with partners, has made 1.52 billion euros available to creative and technology-orientated companies; thereof, the portion invested by IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft itself, as lead, co-lead or co-investor, was approximately 217 million euros.
IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft mbH
Tel: +49 (0)30 2125 3201
About Future Capital
Future Capital (www.future-capital.com) is a public-private partnership between the State of Hessen and Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH. For over 20 years we invest in life science and digital health companies. Beside capital Future Capital supports its portfolio companies with network and know-how. We are located in Frankfurt am Main and invest in our region as well as Germany and Europe.
Future Capital AG
Hanauer Landstr. 291B
60314 Frankfurt am Main
Tel: +49 (0)69 7104 75150
About Ascenion GmbH
Ascenion (www.ascenion.de) is an independent technology transfer company focussing on the life sciences. It is partner to 30 research organizations, universities and university hospitals in Germany and Europe. Particular strengths are spin-off support and project development. As technology transfer partner of the BIH and Charité Ascenion supported the founders and researchers in successfully implementing the spin-off from the BIH Digital Health Accelerator programme. In close cooperation with BIH, Ascenion also supported the negotiation of key agreements throughout the process and the series seed financing round.
Tel: +49 (0)89 3188140