Prof. Dr. Daniel Razansky

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Transcending Limits

Prof. Daniel Razansky’s vision is to transcend limits of the biomedical imaging technology. To support his groundbreaking discoveries he recently received a prestigious Starting Grant of the European Research Council.

Dr. Daniel Razansky im Labor
Prof. Dr. Daniel Razansky

Prof. Dr. Daniel Razansky, head of the "Laboratory for Experimental Biological Imaging Systems"at Helmholtz Zentrum München, has succeeded in overcoming limitations of light microscopy by using the optoacoustic method, which combines light and ultrasound. Using this technique it is possible to retrieve anatomical, functional and molecular information deep from intact living tissues and organs. Photoacoustic signals help to visualize organ development, cellular function and gene expression in deep tissue layers.

The principle: Ultrashort intense laser pulses at different wavelengths illuminate the living organism and absorbed by various tissues, cells and proteins. Absorption of the light causes a minimal rise in local temperature distribution, which in turn leads to local fractional volume expansion and generation of small pressure waves. Thus, each laser pulse leads to an ultrasonic wave which can be captured with ultrasonic detectors distributed around the object. Subsequently, specially developed mathematical algorithms are used to analyze the generated optoacoustic patterns, which differ depending on the molecular composition and color of body structures. The detected ultrasonic data is then converted to generate a high-resolution, three-dimensional multi-spectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) images.


In-vivo longitudinal MSOT tumor imaging following subcutaneous implantation of 4T1 mouse mammary tumor cells in an adult CD1 mouse. Levels of deoxygenated (blue color scale) and oxygenated (red color scale) hemoglobin are shown for the first 13 days after the tumor implantation. The color photograph shows the corresponding cryosection done through a sacrificed animal at day 13.


New approaches for medical examinations


Razansky pointed out that this new approach to imaging may soon enable investigation of neurological processes, cardiovascular mechanisms, tumors and inflammatory processes in pre-clinical research and humans.” For the first time,” he said, “using a non-invasive, in vivo, real-time approach, we will be able to monitor with high sensitivity and specificity what happens in the body while the disease is developing – and even before its anatomical manifestations become apparent.”

The European Research Council recognizedthe importance of this subject and awarded Razansky a Starting Grant worth EUR 1.6 million for his research. This funding shall help him apply the system to specific biomedical problems. For the 36-year-old, this grant will also positively impact his career trajectory.

Two cornerstones of success

To be successful in science, according to Razansky, one must constantly seek to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and transcend the well-recognized limits. Another important cornerstone is teamwork. Razansky has long known that ambitious goals cannot be achieved by working in isolation. “Today’s research fields are so multidimensional that goals can only be achieved through teamwork, with contributions from a variety of disciplines. Only by sharing knowledge can we gain new insights and make progress in research.”

Various applications of the optoacoustic technology are now successfully developed in collaboration with his colleague Prof. Dr. Vasilis Ntziachristos, director of the Institute for Biological and Medical Imaging at Helmholtz Zentrum München. 

Ultimate goal: translation to clinical applications

Besides extensive technical know-how, extensive experimental work is essential to develop new groundbreaking technology. However, Razansky maintains a steady focus on commercialization and clinical applications. This ultimate goal is the main motivation for his intensive efforts. This is also why he teamed up with Ntziachristos to found the company iThera medical GmbH, which was recently awarded the prestigious Go-Bio and BioVaria Spin-off awards. The objective is to make MSOT technology available for pre-clinical and clinical applications, and to achieve this a number of patents were further filed in order to protect the intellectual property.

Although Razansky does not clearly hold a patent on career success, he knows precisely what it takes to achieve ambitious goals: “A successful scientist never stops thinking about his projects and always seeks to transcend supposed limits — even his own.”

Vita

  • 1974 Born in St. Petersburg, Russia 
  • 1989 Moved to Israel
  • 2001 B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in electrical engineering from Technion — Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa
  • 2005 Award from bioVision — the World Life Sciences Forum, partner of WHO, as Science Fellow
  • 2006 PhD in Biomedical Engineering
  • 2006 - 2007 Postdoc at the Center for Molecular Imaging Research, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital 
  • 2007 Research group leader and deputy director of the Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging at Helmholtz Zentrum München
  • 2008 Biomedical Innovation Prize of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
  • 2010 Bavaria Spin-off Award
  • 2010 Starting Independent Researcher Grant of the European Research Council
  • 2011 Selected on the "Young Elite: Top 40 scientists under 40" list by the Capital magazine
  • Over 10 patents and patent applications in the field of biological imaging
  • 4 years’ experience in the biotech and telecom industries
  • Publication of over 80 scientific peer-reviewed articles in prestigious journals and more than 130 conference proceedings 
  • Participation in various research grant awarding committees in Israel, the U.S. and Canada, in program-review and advisory committees of international conferences and editorial and review boards of a number of scientific journals