TissueGnostics: Pioneering Trusted Next-Generation Pathology Services

TissueGnostics: Next-Generation Pathology Services | The Lifesciences Magazine

Medical research and diagnostics are evolving rapidly, demanding trusted and advanced solutions for accurate tissue analysis. Next-Generation Digital Pathology Services have emerged as a crucial avenue, meeting the need for precise insights into complex tissue structures and elevating the standards of diagnostics and treatment.

At the forefront of this transformative shift stands TissueGnostics (TG), guided by Rupert Ecker, Co-Founder & Co-Owner. With its expertise in automated tissue sample analysis and advanced microscopy, TG is revolutionizing medical analysis, exemplifying excellence, and setting new benchmarks for the industry.

Advancing Tissue Analysis 

TG is a pioneering company specializing in the automated analysis of tissue samples through advanced microscopy and image cytometry software. The company’s primary focus is on supplying cutting-edge solutions to researchers and pathologists who seek to comprehend tissue structures at the cellular level.

With a keen emphasis on histopathology, TissueGnostics enables the recognition of essential structures and the extraction of diagnostic and prognostic insights from tissue samples. These samples are typically stained using techniques like H&E (hematoxylin and eosin) or IHC (immunohistochemistry) and, more recently, multi-channel and multiplexed immunofluorescence. This advanced approach encompasses protein markers, antibody-mediated staining, and genetic markers such as RNAscope. TissueGnostics elevates this process to a computer-based level.

TissueGnostics has consistently set trends in the field from its inception, maintaining a commitment to remain at the forefront of automated microscopy and tissue image cytometry. These disciplines demand unparalleled precision and performance. The company’s solutions cater to researchers and clinicians who work with tissue sections and cell cultures in 2D, 3D, or 4 dimensions.

A Shift from Stars to Cells

Dr. Ecker traces his inspiration back to an innate fascination with science. Although his initial aspirations leaned toward astronomy, the pull of the microcosmic world redirected his focus toward cell biology. This shift ultimately led to his pivotal role in TissueGnostics and its innovation journey in the healthcare sector. Having co-invented the groundbreaking TissueFAXS technology, Dr. Ecker’s journey took him from the academic realm to the helm of a transformative enterprise. His multifaceted involvement spans co-founding TG and its subsidiary offices and assuming the roles of CEO and CSO of TG GLOBAL. A significant juncture in this trajectory was marked by a post-doctoral research stint at the Kplus Competence Centre for BioMolecular Therapeutics, a collaborative venture between the University of Vienna and Novartis. Here, the seeds of TissueGnostics were sown.

Dr. Ecker’s student aspirations centered on contributing to scientific progress, a goal he realized through TissueGnostics. The company’s two-decade legacy comprises a robust product portfolio and an impressive scientific footprint. Over 2500 studies, encompassing diverse subjects from basic research to clinical implementation, have been published in more than 800 peer-reviewed journals. This extensive body of work underscores TG’s technology as a cornerstone of biomedical research. From elucidating conditions like Atopic dermatitis to investigating the intricacies of Zika virus infection, the technology’s applications span A to Z, embracing many disciplines and research areas. Dr. Ecker takes pride in being an integral part of this remarkable success story.

Overcoming Challenges and Expanding Horizons

TissueGnostics started as a simple Austrian enterprise in Vienna and faced formidable challenges as it embarked on its journey. With the celebration of its 20th anniversary in 2023, the company’s evolution has been remarkable, transforming it into a global entity with a presence across Europe, the USA, Asia, China, South America, Africa, and Australia. This expansion, however, is a testament to the company’s strategic acumen rather than blanket coverage. The mission ahead involves introducing innovative products, amplifying market reach, and extending service to untapped territories, reinforcing its global footprint.

The dynamic nature of technological progress and market demands presents a perpetual challenge. Unlike its well-funded competitors, particularly in the US, the company has navigated its trajectory with a leaner financial profile. Where others have received substantial investments, TissueGnostics has thrived on its cash flow, underscoring its ingenuity and determination. Dr. Ecker reflects on this journey with unwavering confidence. Drawing an analogy from the natural world, he likens TissueGnostics to the small but resolute mammals that emerged victorious in the evolution race against dinosaurs. 

Long-Standing Success

TissueGnostics’s enduring success finds its roots in its origin as a response to research demands by researchers themselves. This foundational ethos has been integral, with collaborative initiatives forming a cornerstone of the company’s achievements. The company’s foundation was laid upon collaborative efforts, often realized through partnerships with academia. TG’s triumphant trajectory has been fortified by participating in over 20 Austrian national collaborative research projects.

This penchant for collaboration extends beyond national borders. TissueGnostics has played a vital role as an industry partner in seven major EU-funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks (ITN), underscoring its commitment to broader European research initiatives. Participation in other esteemed EU programs, including COST Actions and Framework 6, 7, HORIZON 2020, and HORIZON EUROPE, further validates the company’s standing as a linchpin in advancing scientific frontiers.

Dr. Ecker is the driving force behind the company’s prolonged success. His diverse expertise spans biology, software engineering, business acumen, leadership skills, scientific communication, and interpersonal finesse. This multidisciplinary proficiency has been pivotal in TissueGnostics’ inception and growth. Dr. Ecker’s advice to emerging leaders is rooted in his journey – emphasizing the value of a multifaceted skill set and integrating knowledge from varied domains. However, he also underscores the significance of recognizing one’s limitations and complementing them through a qualified and dedicated team.

Exclusive Offerings

TissueGnostics stands as the creator of Tissue Image Cytometry. The company’s product and service portfolio embodies unparalleled expertise and innovation, catering to microscopy experts and non-specialist users.

At its core, TissueGnostics bridges the intricate world of microscopy and users without extensive microscopy and image analysis proficiency. This is facilitated through its sophisticated technology platform of tissue cytometers. These instruments enable the automated scanning of histological sections, the foundation of pathologists’ daily work. The platform’s remarkable capability lies in identifying individual cells, primarily leveraging nuclear markers as master channels. Subsequently, it quantifies the extent of staining associated with each nucleus across multiple color channels. This versatility encompasses an array of staining combinations, color permutations, cell types, tissue types, and diseases.

TissueGnostics instrumental platform accommodates various scanning technologies, including standard brightfield, wide-field fluorescence, confocal, whole slide imaging, multispectral imaging, and multiplexing. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2023, the company’s journey began in 2003, marked by a groundbreaking achievement as the pioneer in automated solutions for tissue image cytometry. The remarkable TissueFAXS, a microscope-based open research platform, and the revolutionary Colubris – Tissue Cytometer with AI exemplify TG’s commitment to comprehensively addressing cellular inquiries within tissues, whole tissue sections, and the spatial arrangement of cells therein.

Distinctive Edge: Pioneering Precision in Microscopy

TissueGnostics emerges as a standout player in AI-boosted precision microscopy and Tissue Image Cytometry, setting itself apart through a blend of innovation, compliance, and extensive capabilities. As an In-Vitro Diagnostics (IVD)-compliant manufacturer and solution provider, TissueGnostics occupies a unique position. Notably, TG was the trailblazer in translating the concept of flow cytometry’s analytical prowess to tissue sections and microscopy, marking a revolutionary shift in biomedical research methodologies.

At the core of TissueGnostics offerings lies the TissueFAXS platform, an impressive family of instruments that redefine tissue analysis. These instruments seamlessly support the scanning and analysis of diverse samples, including tissue sections, adherent cell cultures, and organoids. This versatility extends across scanning modalities, encompassing brightfield, fluorescence, confocal, live-cell imaging, multispectral imaging, multiplexing, and expansion-based super-resolution microscopy.

Complementing its instrumental prowess, TG’s proprietary image and tissue cytometry software suite, comprised of TissueQuest, HistoQuest, and StrataQuest, represents the pinnacle of analysis solutions for microscopic images housing histological tissues and cells. This software suite encompasses classical image analysis methodologies and advanced techniques like deep learning algorithms and machine learning-based classifiers. This progressive approach empowers automated recognition tasks, even delineating tumor areas within tissue sections with high precision.

TG’s legacy as a trendsetter finds its roots in bringing the concept of flow cytometry to the microscopic scale, bridging the gap between liquid and solid tissues. While the reach of flow cytometry is undeniable, it is optimally suited for liquid samples. TG, however, revolutionized the analysis of solid tissue samples through Tissue Image Cytometry, thereby preserving measurements in the histological context often lost in traditional approaches. This innovation-driven philosophy positions TG as a leader in contextual tissue cytometry, an approach that is anticipated and aligned with the contemporary trend of spatial biology. As the biomedical research landscape evolves, TG remains a steadfast contributor, enabling researchers to unravel the intricacies of tissues and cells with unprecedented accuracy and depth.

Tech-Driven Trajectory

Reflecting on a career spanning over three decades, Dr. Ecker identifies pivotal shifts in the healthcare industry catalyzed by advancements in computer technology. Over time, these shifts have redefined possibilities, progressively integrating automation and AI-driven solutions. This retrospection highlights the industry’s transformation through distinct phases. Three decades ago, the focus centered on pushing boundaries to make advancements feasible. Two decades ago, the spotlight shifted to leveraging computer assistance for enhanced capabilities. A decade ago, automation became the key aspiration, striving for seamless execution. Today, the emphasis has evolved toward harnessing the power of AI for efficient, intelligent outcomes.

In this dynamic landscape, TG emerges as a vanguard of innovation. Adaptation to evolving trends and technology has been its hallmark. The company has consistently led the way by introducing groundbreaking hardware and pioneering software solutions, all meticulously tailored to address the needs of its clients—primarily researchers. Notably, TG has been at the forefront of integrating machine learning-based solutions since 2008.

Targeting Diverse Researchers

TG supports various biomedical researchers working with tissue sections and adherent cell cultures. The company’s technology empowers those seeking to extract meaningful data from microscopic images, transcending visual evaluation. While cancer research and immunology are prominently represented in the growing list of reference publications, TG’s appeal spans beyond these domains. Clients encompass biochemistry, stem cell research, neuroscience, virology, signal transduction research, pharmacology, and more. Client feedback holds immense value in TG’s developmental journey. It serves as a vital wellspring of insights, driving the company’s research and development pipeline. 

The company’s future offerings will continue to revolve around automated, computer-assisted, and AI-driven analysis of tissue samples, catering to the dynamic needs of medical research and histopathology. As the established “one-stop shop,” TG will continue to empower researchers and pathologists with cutting-edge tools for precise and insightful tissue analysis.

Ideal Healthcare Leader

Dr. Ecker delineates the qualities that define an exemplary healthcare leader in today’s landscape. Dr. Ecker’s multifaceted journey, spanning biology, software engineering, business acumen, leadership, scientific communication, and social competence, underscores the importance of a multidisciplinary skill set. While acknowledging the impossibility of being an expert in all domains, Dr. Ecker advises emerging leaders to possess an integrative knowledge base.

Dr. Ecker highlights the significance of effective decision-making, abstraction, and focus. He emphasizes the need for leaders to distill complex topics into pertinent angles, even as they acknowledge the existence of multiple viewpoints. Perseverance, dedication and the ability to navigate frustration form the backbone of successful leadership in scientific research or business ventures. Dr. Ecker’s analogy of a baby learning to walk reflects the essence of resilience, urging leaders to rise from failures, analyze setbacks, and persistently forge ahead.

Dr. Ecker’s Responsibilities

Dr. Ecker’s leadership encompasses pivotal responsibilities crucial to the company’s success. He is at the helm of steering the company’s strategic direction, overseeing Research and Development (R&D) efforts, ensuring the execution of the company’s quality policy, and nurturing collaborative ventures with academia. Dr. Ecker’s passion lies in transforming ideas into reality, fostering creativity, and translating theoretical concepts into tangible outcomes.

Fostering a Harmonious and Productive Team

Dr. Ecker orchestrates a team with a shared vision and alignment with the company’s motto, “Precision that Inspires.” TissueGnostics places high value on self-motivation, seeking individuals capable of driving their productivity. In assembling this team, the company emphasizes the importance of technical qualifications and the ability to contribute positively to team dynamics. The “holistic complementarity” concept guides TG’s approach, encompassing professional skill sets and harmonious interpersonal attributes. This philosophy fosters a conducive environment for creativity, collaboration, and innovation and is particularly suited to the dynamic of small to medium-sized companies.

Guiding Principles

Dr. Ecker shares a profound perspective that shapes his approach to succeeding in the competitive healthcare sector. While not religious in the conventional sense, Dr. Ecker perceives a universal connectedness and views humanity as a part of this greater whole. He embraces a mantra that transcends traditional religious boundaries and advocates for strength to undertake necessary tasks, the wisdom to discern what can’t be changed, and the acceptance of these distinctions.

The company’s mantra holds significant relevance in the business world, especially in a competitive landscape like healthcare. A key tenet lies in accepting the inevitable and channeling efforts away from the unchangeable. TissueGnostics emphasizes the importance of bypassing obstacles swiftly, seeking alternate solutions, and identifying new opportunities.

Insights on Healthcare Transformation

Dr. Ecker provides valuable perspectives on two transformative trends in healthcare. Dr. Ecker addresses the rising influence of telemedicine and telehealth. He offers insights into the concept of “digital pathology,” emphasizing a critical observation that the term currently refers to the digitization of slides rather than fully digitized pathology analysis. Dr. Ecker advocates for a paradigm shift toward Next-Generation Digital Histopathology, where scanning and analysis are conducted digitally, ushering in the era of “computational pathology.” His observations reflect TG’s commitment to advancing healthcare through innovation and redefining traditional practices to align with the digital age. Dr. Ecker also highlights the pivotal role of modern computer technology, particularly the incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI), in shaping cutting-edge instruments like TG’s TissueFAXS and the innovative COLUBRIS – Tissue Cytometer with AI. 

Preparedness and Support

TG addresses the heightened demand for healthcare services during the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the company. The team acknowledges TG’s substantial growth during the pandemic, with a significant increase in order intake and revenue streams. While expressing a desire to avoid future pandemics, the company asserts that TissueGnostics is well-equipped to handle similar situations.

During the COVID-19 crisis, TG proactively supported the international research community through its GLOBAL ALLIANCE AGAINST PANDEMIC VIRUS THREATS CAMPAIGN. The company offered complimentary licenses of its acclaimed image cytometry software, valued at EUR 5 million, demonstrating TissueGnostics’ commitment to aiding research efforts during challenging times.

Future Trends

The TissueGnostics team highlights three transformative trends shaping healthcare’s future:

  • Automation: Driven by cost-efficiency and productivity gains.
  • Data-Driven Measurements: Replacing visual analysis for better data quality and precision medicine.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): Uncovering intricate patterns and interdependencies in complex datasets.

Dr. Ecker’s insights forecast a future where automation, data precision, and AI revolutionize healthcare operations, decision-making, and innovation.

“TissueGnostics’ primary focus is on supplying cutting-edge solutions to researchers and pathologists who seek to comprehend tissue structures at the cellular level.”

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