Technical University of Munich: Interdisciplinary research for the digital medicine of the future

The Zentrum für Digitale Medizin und Gesundheit (ZDMG) will bring together researchers in medicine, informatics and mathematics. They will collaborate on new healthcare developments based on data science and artificial intelligence and pursue clinical applications. The Technical University of Munich (TUM) is to receive around 43.6 million euros in funding from the federal government and the state of Bavaria for the new research building at the university hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar.

To explore approaches to the digital medicine of the future at the ZDMG, TUM will pool its research strengths in medicine, informatics and mathematics. The targeted integration of scientific and engineering competencies at the new interdisciplinary research center will make innovative methods and technologies in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and data science available for use in various medical fields.

Research into digital healthcare through data-driven approaches
Under the umbrella of the Munich Data Science Institute (MDSI), the ZDMG will operate as a standalone research center, developing new data-driven approaches and methodologies and promoting their use to benefit patients, in particular in treatments of cancer and cardiovascular disease and in neurological medicine.

A primary focus will be the development of individualized and personalized treatments and interventions. In that regard, the early detection and diagnosis of diseases and the identification of biomarkers and treatment objectives using AI and data science will play a crucial role. Another focus will be on security and privacy protection when using patient data and the ethically responsible application of the new data-driven technologies.

For the interactive visualization of big data in medicine, plans for the ZDMG also include a data observatory. With this unique facility – the largest of its kind in Europe – it will be possible to visualize very large datasets from clinical laboratory results, image data and more complex data such as genetic mutations and cellular changes and compare them on multiple screens. This may help to discover previously unknown patterns and correlations that may point the way forward to new therapeutic options.

“The ZDMG offers a unique opportunity to pool the strengths of the university hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar and the Technical University of Munich and to advance digital healthcare through data-driven approaches,” says Prof. Daniel Rückert, the future head of the center.

Digital medicine – a key area in the research and excellence strategy
Digital medicine is a key area under the research and excellence strategy of TUM, embodied in various consortia, research institutes and collaborations. “The ZDMG will bundle the TUM-wide digital medicine activities. The new building will play a vital role in the development of the key area of digital health and technology within the framework of the future TUM School of Medicine & Health,” says Prof. Bernhard Hemmer, the Dean of the School of Medicine.

Stressing the importance of the ZDMG, Dr. Martin Siess, Medical Director and CEO of TUM’s university hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar, says: “The new building for the digital medicine center on the university hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar campus also represents a milestone for our patients because the ability of scientists to collaborate with doctors is crucial for the translation of research into modern patient care.”

Extensive federal and state-level funding for digital medicine
Following a recommendation by the German Council of Science and Humanities, the Joint Science Conference (GWK), the research funding agency supported by the federal and state governments, approved approximately 43.6 million euros in funding for the ZDMG. The financing of the new research building on the home campus of TUM Klinikum rechts der Isar will be covered in equal parts by the state of Bavaria and the federal government.

Markus Blume, the Bavarian State Minister for Science and the Arts, and state chairman of the administrative commission of the German Council of Science and Humanities, said: “Leading edge medical research is our ticket to a livable future. With the Center for Digital Medicine and Health at TUM, another incubator for innovative research projects in a key area of future medical science is now emerging – so that all of us can benefit from the most advanced treatments when the need arises. For this I wish to express my heartfelt congratulations. The successful application of TUM for this coveted federal/state funding demonstrates once again: Progress? Yes, Bavaria is there!”