20 Years of Cutting-Edge Research in the Health Sector

HEALTH - Institute of Biomedicine and Health Sciences at JOANNEUM RESEARCH researches medical technology solutions to improve people's lives. Now the institute is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

20 Years of Cutting-Edge Research in the Health Sector
The team of the HEALTH Institute in Graz, photo: JOANNEUM RESEARCH/ Schwarzl

Health is our most valuable asset. We have become very aware of this again in the last one and a half years. The 70 or so experts at HEALTH are eagerly researching, for example, better processes for drug development and approval, drug measurements, medical sensors and digital solutions in the healthcare sector. The location of the concentrated innovation and health power is the ZWT - Centre for Knowledge Transfer in Medicine in Graz. Our researchers benefit greatly from this location with the possibility of close cooperation with the Medical University of Graz and other partners in the medical environment.

"It is incredible to see what has developed from the founding idea of HEALTH. We started in 2001 as the Institute for Medical Systems Engineering and Health Management with three employees in a small office in Graz's Krenngasse. In the meantime, we have become a fixed and irreplaceable part of the Styrian research landscape on the campus of the Medical University of Graz. I am proud of our success and thank our staff, without whom none of this would have been possible," says Institute Founder and Director Thomas Pieber, pleased with the scientific successes his institute has achieved.


What all happens in HEALTH's communication-friendly rooms and laboratories in the heart of Medical Science City Graz?

"Here at the location we have a very good and cooperative exchange with important local facilities and institutions in the healthcare sector, such as the Medical University of Graz, KAGes, CBmed GmbH, Styria GmbH, the Geriatric Health Centres and FH JOANNEUM, and of course many other networks and initiatives. In this environment, a number of technologies and methods have been and are being developed that directly fulfil a medical benefit and for which we are sought out and approached by representatives from science and industry," says 2nd HEALTH Director Frank Sinner.


He was instrumental in one of these groundbreaking technology developments: 

"A great success is the so-called open microperfusion, a minimally invasive method for measuring active substances in tissue - for example, skin or fatty tissue. Since 2013, this research has also been funded by the American FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), among others. This carries our reputation far beyond Austria and makes us an important partner of the pharmaceutical industry for drug development. From small biotech companies to the very big international players in the pharmaceutical industry, many work with us to develop new drugs and improved therapies - especially in the fields of dermatology, neurology and metabolic diseases," Sinner explains.


Digitisation in medicine

"JOANNEUM RESEARCH is a publicly owned research company, so we also clearly see the mission to make our contribution to improving the healthcare system. In the future, we want to focus even more on this. Especially in the area of digitalisation, there is an enormous need to catch up - the pandemic has painfully shown us that. But there is incredible potential in this - for improved services, improved communication and ultimately improved health care. And everyone in the system benefits from this: the patients themselves, but also all professional groups, insurance companies and institutions," Pieber explains.

It was clear to the two directors of the JOANNEUM RESEARCH Institute HEALTH from the outset that the path must go in the direction of digitalised healthcare. That is why a lot of know-how was built up for digital medical products or web-based tools. As early as 2001, "Healthgate BARS" went into operation at JOANNEUM RESEARCH - practically at the same time as the institute was founded. The online tool, which has since been renamed CDS-BARS, provides real-world data for risk assessment and can also be used, for example, for COVID-19 disease.


Spin-off: off into the free market

Two spin-offs from HEALTH took place in 2016. On the one hand, the group around the successful product "GlucoTab®" became independent. The "decide Clinical Software GmbH" is now operating highly successfully and offers solutions to support clinical decisions and clinical processes, especially in the area of blood glucose management. With "EPIG GmbH", the health sciences expert group went into business for themselves and founded an institute for development and planning in the health sector.



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