Digital Molecular Medicine
The analysis of tissue and cells by microscopy is undergoing a transition from an analog to a digital technology. This, together with advancements in assay technologies, now allows an increasing number of molecular readouts through multiplexed immunoassays. The paradigm shift from human expert based interpretations to computerised readouts has vast implications for both clinical medicine and biomedical research. In the future, pathology will change from a mainly descriptive into a more quantitative science and an expert’s decisions will be supported by an array of readouts performed by computer vision algorithms.
The tailored high-content image analysis methods are important for the precision medicine projects and allow us to study tumour biomarker expression and heterogeneity at a cell and tissue level. The Tekes FiDiPro Fellow project “Next generation image analysis solutions - towards image-based diagnostics” focuses on finding computational solutions for phenotyping diseases and drug responses at a single cell level. We utilise this approach to follow the responses of patient-derived cancer cells towards specific drugs, especially in precision medicine of solid tumours.
The digital imaging and readout technologies also create novel solutions for the pharmaceutical industry for early phase drug development within oncology and for novel point-of-care diagnostics. Algorithms that have been developed at FIMM during the past few years include analysis of multiple antigens in the same tissue section (multiplexed immunohistochemistry), analysis of the tumour microenvironment, detection of cell subtypes (especially immune cells), cancer tissue viability classifiers and a series of protein expression readout methods. In the IMI funded PREDECT project (2011-2016) on preclinical evaluation of drug efficacy in common solid tumours, tens of thousands of samples were handled, profiled, and analysed at FIMM.
Digital Molecular Medicine as one of FIMM’s Grand Challenge Programs combines researchers within the field of image informatics, computer vision and digital microscopy. Novel technologies developed at FIMM have been transferred to a spinoff company Fimmic Oy that commercializes software for digital microscopy. The expertise gained within this grand challenge is also offered as a service at the FIMM Technology Centre.
Mobile microscopy MoMic
FIMM researchers have developed a small, low-cost mobile microscope device that can attain laboratorylevel microscopic definition. The project has recently received significant funding to support further development of the device and the remote diagnostics process. Clinical studies on the use of mobile microscopy for point-of-care diagnostics were started in 2016 in collaboration with Helsinki Innovation Services and Karolinska Institutet. The device is being tested both in field conditions in Tanzania and in some Finnish hospitals.