2022/07/26 | Research | Health & Medicine

Novel medical device provides early recognition of brain diseases

Dominic Senn appreciates the challenge of starting and creating something new. Together with Mathias Abegg and three colleagues, he founded machineMD, a spin-off from the University of Bern, with the goal of radically improving the early detection of brain diseases through a combination of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and making reliable diagnostic data accessible anywhere in the world.

Interview: Flurina Werthmüller

In which field is machineMD active?

We are developing a new type of diagnostic device, the NeurOphthalmoscope, which enables a complete, standardized and instrument-based neuro-ophthalmological examination. The device is based on many years of research in the laboratory of Prof. Dr. Mathias Abegg. It is aimed at ophthalmologists, neurologists and optometrists.

Can you explain exactly how the NeurOphthalmoscope works?

The device measures eye and pupil movements triggered by visual stimuli. Eight neuro-ophthalmological examinations, including pupil function and visual field measurements, are combined in one multi-purpose device that outputs quantitative measurements. Once approved, the device will make a specialized examination possible for a range of healthcare professionals, including medical practice assistants, not just doctors with years of additional training. This will have the advantage that all patients are examined to the same standard, improving practice efficiency.

How did the University of Bern enable you to start your own company?

The University of Bern laid the scientific and clinical foundations for the NeurOphthalmoscope through research in Prof. Dr. Mathias Abegg's Eye Movement Laboratory. The University of Bern also supports machineMD through joint appearances at conferences and by providing advice on national and international innovation funding instruments.

What attracted you to self-employment?

I am attracted by the opportunity to create something new. It is sometimes exhausting, but at the same time it opens space for change, for oneself and for the way we work together in a team, with partners and clients. I am also fascinated by learning about new technologies, markets and business models.

After my studies, I first worked for two or three years before starting a doctoral program at ETH. But that was too theoretical for me. Halfway through, I dropped out and founded my first startup together with two friends. This was followed by two more startups - the last one was TWINT - before I founded machineMD.

The video presents the NeurOphthalmoscope, manufactured by machineMD.


What is your vision?

Our goal is to use the NeurOphthalmoscope to make the diagnostic quality of a highly qualified specialist accessible to every doctor, optometrist and optician everywhere in the world, thus also reaching patients who do not have access to specialists today. In this way, we make it possible to detect diseases such as MS or brain tumors at an early stage.Furthermore, we want to expand the diagnostic possibilities for the early detection of brain diseases by collecting standardized data.

What advice do you have for students who are considering taking the step into self-employment?

I have never learned so much in any education as I did in my first start-up. I am very grateful for that. I wish all students who feel like starting their own startup that they don't let any fears slow them down - fear is part of it. But it is a bad advisor for decisions that don't kill you.

What advice would you give your student self from today's perspective?

Be brave, dare to do something, do a good job and enjoy the freedoms that life in our latitudes can offer.

ABOUT MACHINE MD

machineMD is a Swiss medical device company, founded in 2019, that develops innovative solutions to radically improve early detection of brain diseases such as stroke, multiple sclerosis and brain tumours. The company combines Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence to empower neurologists and ophthalmologists with reliable diagnostic data.

ABOUT DOMINIC SENN

Dominic Senn studied national economics, political science and international law in Zürich and Madrid. After several years of research and teaching at the University, ETH and University of Applied Sciences, he decided to be an entrepreneur and became Co-Founder and CEO of his first startup basisnote Ltd. After the sale to Bertelsmann AG, Dominic Senn turned to his next project and joined Optor AG, a startup in the field of B2B software development, as Co-Founder and CEO. Optor AG developed very well in the following years and is today one of the leading providers of automated staff scheduling solutions. After four years as CEO, Dominic Senn served as Chairman of the Board of Directors until 2019. In 2015, Dominic Senn started working as Head of Business Development at TWINT AG. In the following years, TWINT became the most successful provider of mobile payment solutions in Switzerland. In 2020, Dominic Senn became Co-Founder and CEO of machineMD, a spin-off from the University of Bern. The vision of machineMD is to radically improve early detection of brain disease with a combination of Virtual Reality and Artifical Intelligence and to bring the diagnostic quality of a highly trained specialist to every doctor, optometrist, and optician anywhere in the world.

About the author

Flurina Werthmüller is an intern at the Communication & Marketing Department of the University of Bern.