Rudolf Schulze Vohren (Co-Founder & CEO, Nano4Imaging GmbH)

Rudolf is a serial entrepreneur passionate about the Life Sciences and Healthcare industries. In 2011, he co-founded Nano4Imaging GmbH, a Medtech company that enables MRI-guided interventional procedures. Currently, he serves as the company’s CEO. Rudolf also established BBM Vohren GmbH in 2004, a consulting firm focused on building new ventures. Before BBM Vohren, Rudolf gathered 18 years of experience working for BAYER AG in various international senior management roles across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America. He holds a master's degree in economics specializing in agricultural economics from the University of Hohenheim, Germany.

Image: Rudolf Schulze Vohren
Image: Rudolf Schulze Vohren

Can you explain your job to a five-year-old? 

As an entrepreneur, I wear several hats. My primary focus is getting Nano4Imaging’s TRACKR platform off the ground. I co-founded the company with Paul Borm. He's the CTO and inventor working with our tech teams and clinicians, while I'm the CEO handling investors, strategy, team coordination, and several other tasks that keep us moving forward. 

Let me explain what TRACKR is. Currently, when someone has heart problems, he needs to be taken to the hospital for a heart check-up using X-ray fluoroscopy. This method is risky as it involves radiation exposure, which can be harmful. Moreover, patients have to receive injections with contrast agents that may cause damage to their kidneys. This procedure is especially risky for vulnerable patients such as children or people with chronic kidney disease. 

To solve this problem, we are developing this new approach called TRACKR that uses MRI instead. For this purpose, we develop special MRI-compatible devices like guidewires and catheters. These devices are made of non-metallic material and nanoparticle markers, which make them visible in MRI. We are also working on AI-powered software that recognizes these markers. With this software, physicians are able to position the devices accurately and safely, similar to a parking assistant in a car.

What excites you most about your job?

One thing I’m really excited about is our team at Nano4Imaging. We're a small group of ten employees, but we all contribute unique skills and know-how. Our young talents handle the algorithms, software, chemistry, and production, while those employees with many years of experience care for regulatory/QM, customers, and finance. It's a perfect balance that helps us act agilely in product development while still meeting the requirements of customers and regulatory bodies. 

What also excites me is our collaboration with cardiologists and radiologists. It's such an intensive innovation symbiosis, but without it, we couldn’t bring our technology to patients. It's amazing to see how we can all come together and work towards a common goal—enabling interventions without radiation and contrast agents. 

Which trend will change the future of medicine? 

It will not surprise you if I put artificial intelligence and machine learning on top of the list. The advances in data science, computing power, and IOT are enormous and enable an immense variety of AI applications, providing new possibilities for more efficient, more effective, and safer medical treatments. For instance, with our TRACKR technology, it will be possible to treat patients with solid liver tumors in real-time in just one interventional procedure, which includes the steps of planning, surgery, and control. This is a significant improvement over the current treatments, which take several days and involve alternating between CT/catheter lab and MRI suite. 

I believe that cell and gene therapy also has the potential to change medicine fundamentally. The promising results of CAR-T cell therapy in treating blood cancers offer hope for expanding its use to other types of cancer and rare diseases.

Looking back, which trends have you missed or underestimated? 

I didn't anticipate how quickly AI could be integrated into MedTech. We would have been ahead of the curve if we had started developing our TRACKR software earlier. A few years ago, medical professionals were hesitant about using AI applications and focused more on the risks involved. But things are changing now. In Europe, people are beginning to realize that technology and AI can help to address the shortage of clinical staff and rising healthcare costs. I also think that clinicians will become more comfortable with AI as more people use ChatGPT for personal reasons.

Which MedTech initiative or startup deserves more attention? 

I think regulatory issues should receive more attention, especially in Europe. The new Medical Device Regulation has complicated the approval process for medical devices. Additionally, there is a lack of a legal framework for the safe use of AI technologies. However, this is expected to change with the introduction of the Artificial Intelligence Act. I hope there will be no overregulation so companies developing AI technologies in Europe remain competitive. For these reasons, the US market and the FDA approval of our products have priority over Europe. 

Where would you put a million dollars? 

If I had an additional million dollars, I would definitely invest it in our TRACKR platform. This technology is a game changer and enables many new interventional treatments. 

Alongside the development of TRACKR, the industry is coming up with a new generation of MRI scanners. These scanners can work with lower Tesla strengths thanks to the high use of AI. This reduces their safety requirements, and thus, the scanners can be made smaller and more cost-effective. Therefore, better access and more versatile use of MRI scanners can be made possible in day-to-day clinical practice.

What's the best advice you've ever received? 

Throughout my career, I have received a lot of valuable advice that has helped me grow both professionally and personally. One of the best pieces of advice came from a senior colleague during my first year at Bayer. When I was about to be transferred abroad for the first time, she advised me to “travel light in life.” It wasn't until years later that I understood the deeper meaning of her words. She was referring to the importance of maintaining serenity. This virtue helps entrepreneurs especially to stay on track, not to be frustrated by setbacks—of which there are always many when building new ventures—or to become overconfident in the event of success.

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