News & Events

Hadi Zolfaghari goes to Cambridge with SNSF mobility grant

Hadi Zolfaghari, PhD of the ARTORG Center Cardiovascular Engineering group, will be going to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge on 20 July 2020 to conduct research on blood flows in transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) at. Hadi Zolfaghari specializes in understanding the laminar-turbulent transition processes occurring in flow in and around the heart, with the long-term goal of controlling thesephenomena in a clinically favourable way. 

His research in Cambridge until September 2021 will be focused mainly on Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), which allows patients with severe aortic stenosis to be treated in a minimally invasive way. TAVR is attributed with considerable post-operative stroke risk, which is closely linked to the nature of turbulent flow in the aorta. Hadi Zolfaghari will work on combining the sheer power of GPU-based supercomputers and state-of-the-art mathematical techniques from the flow control theory for minimizing the stroke risk factor during the TAVR procedures. 

Hadi Zolfaghari

He will be working under the supervision of the internationally renowned Prof. Richard Kerswell, head of the High Reynolds-Number Fluid Flow group at Cambridge. Clinical advice on the project will be provided by cardiologists from the Barts Heart Centre in London, the largest cardiovascular centre in Europe. The research is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Hadi Zolfaghari has recently finished his PhD studies in the cardiovascular engineering group in ARTORG, where he worked on optimization of mechanical heart valves based on flow instability and control theory. He has also actively developed code for solving challenging flow problems on advanced GPU-based computing platforms such as the world’s 6th fastest supercomputer Piz Daint.

Full project details

3RCC Grant for Lung-on-Chip

Three out of four project grants by the Swiss Competence Center dedicated to the 3R principles Replace, Reduce, Refine go to the University of Bern this year. One of the grantees is Olivier Guenat, Head of the Organs-on-Chip Technologies group at ARTORG (left). Together with Thomas Geiser from the Inselspital Department of Pneumology Guenat proposes to develop a new model to study idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a fatal lung disease that results in the scarring of the lungs, to replace the so far prevalent but flawed bleomycin-induced lung-injury and lung fibrosis model. Two other projects by Christiane Albrecht and Marianna Kruithof-de Julio are likewise funded.

Olivier Guenat and Thomas Geiser grow human lung cells in a new generation of in vitro models, called organs-on-chip. They plan to develop a new model for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a fatal lung disease that results in the scarring of the lungs. In the standard model to study lung fibrosis inflammation and fibrosis is triggered in the lungs of mice. But many promising drug candidates successfully tested in these preclinical models have failed when tested in humans.

"The two species vary widely in their physiology and in their response to pulmonary drugs," explains Guenat. "In humans, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive disease, whereas in mice it is chemically induced and reversible. So, we cannot easily transfer test results from one to another."

Immunostaining of patient cells cultured on a second-generation lung-on-chip. The 250um hexagons mimic an array of alveoli. ©Pauline Zamprogno, ARTORG Center

ARTORG's lung-on-chip technology uses patient cells cultivated on a microchip to generate relevant clinical information about the fibrotic process. This will allow researchers and clinicians to test experimental drugs and optimize existing treatments in a more patient-relevant and personalized way. "Our research contributes to advancing non-animal models and at the same time to providing each patient with the best possible therapy," says Guenat.

ARTORG participates in EUROoC

Lisette van Os, PhD student at the ARTORG Organs-on-Chip Technologies laboratory, is part of the European project EUROoC to develop next-generation technologies that recapitulate human biology on a microscale. Within the network of 21 research partners, she investigates how immune cells attack viruses or bacteria in an acute lung infection on chip.

For her PhD thesis project, Lisette van Os profits from the ARTORG's experience in the development of microfluidic in vitro models under the supervision of Prof. Olivier Guenat and the close cooperation with the Department of Pneumology of the Inselspital, Bern University Hospital. She will develop a lung model to better understand acute lung infection, a disease with no effective therapy at the moment.

PhD Defense Soheila Zeinali

The ARTORG Center congratulates Soheila Zeinali from the Organs-on-Chip Technologies group on her successful PhD thesis defense on 2 June 2020! She presented her thesis on “Functional in vitro Human Microvasculature”, conducted under the Co-Supervision of Prof. Dr. med. Thomas Geiser, Department of Pneumology, Inselspital, and with Prof. Dr. med. Wolfgang Kübler, Institute of Physiology, Charité Berlin, as external expert.

Portrait of PhD student Soheila Zeinali and her microvessels-on-chip
Microvessel-on-Chip: effect of drug on density of blood vessels (by Soheila Zeinali).

SNF funds two AIMI projects

The ARTORG is proud to announce two 2020-2024 project grants by the Swiss National Science Foundation led by the Artificial Intelligence in Medical Imaging laboratory. They include work on image data validation for AI systems and an investigation into how neural networks operate for automated medical imaging analysis.

Deep learning has lead to huge advances in longstanding problems of computer vision, natural language processing, signal processing and robotics. However, deep networks may render dangerous wrong predictions when they process corrupted or faulty images. Pablo Marquez Neila, Senior researcher at the Artificial Intelligence in Medical Imaging (AIMI) laboratory, will develop an „Image data validation for AI systems“ that can identify whether an input image can be safely processed by a deep network or not. Goal is to create a comprehensive methodology on data validation that should enable a large number of industries to build more robust AI systems. 

Medicine has witnessed very interesting Deep Learning (DL) developments in recent years, but the black-box nature of the analytic capabilities of large Neural Networks has also raised many concerns by scientists and doctors. In this context, Visual Question and Answering (VQA) methods that query the content of an image by means of an explicit text question, offer an exciting new pathway to discern the inner workings of DL. Raphael Sznitman, head of ARTORG's AIMI lab, is proposing the elaboration of new VQA methods that can reason about the content of medical images in similar ways to domain experts. His project “Visual Question Answering and Visual Turing Tests for Medical Imaging“ also sets out to design methods that can validate and verify non-bias of VQA systems.

PhD Defense Pauline Zamprogno

Congratulations to Pauline Zamprogno from the Organs-on-Chip Technologies laboratory on her successful PhD thesis defense on 6 April 2020! She presented the results of her PhD project "Development of second generation of air-blood barrier on chip".

Portrait of PhD student Pauline Zamprogno and microscopy of her work.
Microscopy picture of the lung alveoli array developed by Pauline Zamprogno. Each hexagon is about 250um in size, a size similar to the in-vivo alveoli dimensions.

Fully automated high-precision milling 

From March 2020, workpieces made of plastic, steel, aluminium and titanium can be produced fully automatically at the ARTORG Center in a state-of-the-art machining centre for drilling and milling work. With the new 3.5-ton heavy milling machine, the Mechanical Design and Production workshop completes its modern instrument park to manufacture customized parts for biomedical research and technology development of the ARTORG and external research partners. The machine can produce highly complex surfaces with a positioning accuracy of 5 µm. 

In addition to the X, Y and Z axes, the new high-precision milling machine is equipped with a controlled rotation head, which also allows simultaneous machining in 4 axes. This means that all 4 axes move simultaneously, thus enabling the production of highly complex surfaces. The Mechanical Design and Production unit co-develops and manufactures mechanical and electro-mechanical components for ARTORG's research groups. It supports all levels of the design and manufacturing process from concept to production.

items manufactured at ARTORG's Mechanical Design and Production workshop
Items manufactured at ARTORG's Mechanical Design and Production workshop (photo: M Kugemann for ARTORG Center)

PhD Defense Hadi Zolfaghari

We would like to congratulate Hadi Zolfaghari from the Cardiovascular Engineering Research Group on his successful PhD thesis defense on 5 March 2020! He presented the results of his PhD project "Impinging leading edge vortex instability in the bileaflet mechanical heart valves: direct numerical simulation, stability analysis, and adjoint-based control".

Hadi Zolfaghari completed his PhD at the ARTORG Center

ARTORG Center at the Spirit of Bern

Sebastian Wolf, Head of Ophthalmology at Inselspital, and ARTORG Director Raphael Sznitman presented their joint research projects at the 2020 edition of The Spirit of Bern, dedicated to Innovation and Safety in Medicine. Wolf uses machine learning for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy patients: "We can examine a large number of patients with relatively little effort, treat them better and maintain their vision for longer". The Inselspital and ARTORG group Artificial Intelligence in Medical Imaging will continue to investigate and testbed technology to improve patient eye care.

Raphael Sznitman and Sebastian Wolf talk about their research at the Spirit of Bern
(Photo: M. Kugemann for ARTORG Center)

In a day-long event, personalities from business, science and politics spoke about medical innovations in Bern and the safety of medical products. After a welcoming address by Christoph Ammann, President of the Cantonal Government, Daniel Buser, President of the Foundation, and University Rector Christian Leumann, followed the five main program  foci with representatives from administration, medical technology, university hospitals, sitem-insel and media, before Bernhard Pulver, Chairman of the Insel Gruppe Board of Directors, presented a summary of the day and Alec von Graffenried bid farewell to the participants.

Impressions of the day can be found on the ARTORG LinkedIn page or on

Juan Ansó will do research at the University of California in San Francisco
Juan Ansó (photo: Tanja Kurt for ARTORG Center)

Juan Ansó starts SNSF mobility grant in San Francisco

Dr. Ansó has joined the ARTORG Center in 2017, heading the Neuromonitoring Lab over the past two years. To further advance his research focus in neurophysiology, functional neurosurgery and deep brain stimulation (DBS), he undertakes an Early Postdoc Mobility stay at the University of California in San Francisco in February 2020. As member of the team of Philip Starr, Juan Ansó will be developing new control methods for a closed-loop DBS in Parkinson patients, allowing for a more personalized symptom alleviation without adverse side effects.

Parkinson's disease is a disease that leads to the decay of the brain and is almost always fatal. Patients suffer from tremors and stiffness of the limbs with slower movements. One in twenty people over the age of 80 can be affected. By 2050 there will be 12 million patients worldwide. 

A newer method of treating Parkinson is deep brain stimulation (DBS). In DBS, an electrode is implanted in the diseased part of the brain, stimulating this area electrically to alleviate symptoms. But DBS also has disadvantages. Since it continuously stimulates the brain even in the absence of symptoms, there can be adverse side effects. These include speech disorders, involuntary eye movements and mood swings such as overexcitation or depression.

One approach to improving DBS therapy is the "closed-loop DBS", which compares brain status with acute symptoms and performs electrical stimulation only when the patient needs it. Early research suggests that this adjusted stimulation with a closed control loop leads to a reorganization of the brain so that the dependence on the stimulation is reduced and possibly even a healing effect might occur. Juan Ansó is working towards such an adaptive deep brain stimulation.

Full project details

URODEA receives an innovation project grant by Innosuisse

URODEA, a spin-off of the ARTORG Center, was awarded an innovation project grant by Innosuisse, the Swiss Innovation Promotion Agency, on 29 November 2019. The start-up, in collaboration with the Department of Urology of Bern University Hospital and the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne,  is developing the world’s first non-invasive solution for patients suffering from underactive bladder. The grant will allow patients to test the device for the first time.

A recent non-specific-population based survey revealed that almost 23 percent of the participants had difficulties in emptying their bladder. The partially full bladder leads to pain, continuous sleep disruption (for the frequent nightly visits to the bathroom) and a permanent impulse to urinate. Commonly the condition is treated via surgery or the insertion of a catheter (which is associated to high risks of urinary infection).

The URODEA device can significanly improve the quality of life of UAB patients as  it is discreet, easy-to-use, not-implanted and non-invasive. Moreover, it can drastically reduce the risks of urinary infections. URODEA technology is based on an innovative pumping principle which generates urine flow by applying an external intermittent compression on the urethra (the outlet tube of the bladder) so that direct contact with urine is avoided.

Can Gökgöl was awarded the Swiss prize for Angiology 2019
Can Gökgöl (photo: Adrian Moser for ARTORG Center)

Swiss Prize for Angiology 2019

Dr. Can Gökgöl, postdoctoral fellow at the Computational Bioengineering group of ARTORG, received the Swiss Prize for Angiology 2019 for the best scientific publication in Angiology during the past year. The awarded work aimed at identifying non-clinical markers that can be used to predict the poor clinical outcomes of endovascular therapy in patients suffering from peripheral arterial disease via a numerical model. The award by the Union of Vascular Societies of Switzerland was presented on 14 November 2019 during their 20th Congress in Luzern.

Medical imaging and numerical model of arteries after endovascular therapy (ARTORG, Computational Bioengineering)

Endovascular therapy in patients suffering from peripheral arterial disease shows high rates of restenosis, but the mechanisms responsible for restenosis remain unknown. Dr. Can Gökgöl in collaboration with the Department of Cardiology of Inselspital and the Interventional Angiology of the Vascular Institute Central Switzerland has developed a numerical approach to predict restenosis based on hemodynamical markers. To that end, personalized computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations of blood flow in the femoro-poplietal artery were performed on a cohort of patients, with the models representing a range of leg flexion induced deformations that are hypothesized to facilitate restenosis.

The results not only showed an association between severe arterial deformations and adverse hemodynamic conditions, but also highlighted the CFD-obtained flow parameters as better predictors of restenosis than conventional non-clinical markers. Further studies utilizing this numerical approach based on the postoperative configuration of the artery are ongoing as this method has the potential to identify patients at increased risk of restenosis. 

Full open access article in Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology

Habilitation presentation Prabitha Urwyler

PD Dr. Prabitha Urwyler, Deputy Group Head of the Gerontechnology and Rehabilitation group, has presented her inaugural habilitation on 6 November 2019 at the ARTORG Center. Under the title “Continuity of Care: a Tele-ICT Approach” she has spoken on the increasing role of telemedicine in improving further care, giving examples of tele-monitoring to promote independent and prolonged living in one's own home. In a second part, she outlined the requirements and challenges of telerehabilitation on the basis of continued speech therapy and cognitive rehabilitation applications.

Prabitha Urwyler is an alumnus of the Bern Biomedical Engineering Master program and has attained a doctoral degree from the University of Basel. She has completed postdoctoral studies at the University Hospital of Old Age Psychiatry in Bern (UPD) and was a visiting researcher at the Institute of Neuroscience at the University of Newcastle, UK. As a Senior Researcher both of the ARTORG Center and the Neurorehabilitation Unit of the Inselspital´s Department of Neurology, Prabitha Urwyler currently investigates telerehabilitation as an add-on to  face-to-face speech and language therapy and personally tailored puzzle games for cognitive health in the elderly.

The engineer who trains rehab robots

Laura Marchal-Crespo from the University of Bern teaches therapy robots to adapt the constantly repeating exercises to each individual stroke patient.
"The longer a patient is inactive, the harder it is for him to regain his mobility later," says Marchal-Crespo. It is also important to constantly repeat the exercises so that the brain structures can be reorganised. 

Laura Marchal-Crespo already researched the interface between man and machine at ETH Zurich via robot assistance and virtual reality for rehabilitation. She was particularly interested in helping paralyzed people after a stroke. Prof. Dr. Laura Marchal-Crespo studied and earned her doctorate at the University of California in Irvine. In 2017 she received a professorship from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and since then has been working at the University of Bern. 
In her work, Marchal-Crespo is particularly fascinated by the sheer inexhaustible possibilities of the virtual world. {Editor's note: She is therefore currently intending to improve robotic neurorehabilitation by developing robotic artificial intelligence.}
Her aim is to motivate patients to train longer and more intensively. She is currently investigating whether she can increase patient motivation with special games. "I also want to make boring training sessions exciting," says the researcher.

(freely translated excerpts from interview in Tages-Anzeiger, 9 November 2019; read full German-language interview)

Laura Marchal-Crespo with the rehabilitation robot ARMin (photo: Adrian Moser)
Adrian Moser for Tages-Anzeiger

Gaming away on Alzheimer's disease?

Although not designed specifically for this age group, computer games are becoming increasingly popular with the ageing population. Tricky puzzles on your smartphone are readily available and inspire ambition to solve them with skill and patience. This is even helpful to build a reserve of cognitive skills that can delay the negative effects of Alzheimer's, says Tobias Nef, group head of the Gerontechnology and Rehabilitation group.

Habilitation presentation Laura Marchal-Crespo

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Laura Marchal-Crespo, Head of the Motor Learning and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory, has held her inaugural habilitation talk on 30 October 2019 at sitem-insel. Titled “Virtual reality and rehabilitation robotics: Optimizing motor learning to improve neurorehabilitation” she presented robotic devices and VR as promising combination for cost-effective and high-intensity motor skills training after a brain injury. After pointing out current limitations in stroke rehabilitation, such as a lack of personalized interventions or a focus on patients with severe impairment, she proposed a new mindset, e.g. discussing how a better understanding of human skill acquisition can drive improved neurorehabilitation approaches.

Laura Marchal-Crespo is an SNSF Professor at the ARTORG Center since 2017. She obtained her M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California at Irvine, USA. In 2010, she joined ETH Zurich’s Sensory-Motor Systems as a postdoc researcher. Laura Marchal-Crespo carries out research in the general areas of human-machine interfaces and biological learning, and, specifically, in the use of robotic assistance and virtual reality to aid people in learning motor tasks and rehabilitate after neurologic injuries. She currently investigates how arm rehabilitation robots can be adapted to individual patients’ needs via inbuilt artificial intelligence and how immersive virtual and augmented reality can be employed to enhance patients’ motivation and reduce their cognitive load during robotic training.

AlveoliX receives Innosuisse Certification

The ARTORG spin-off AlveoliX was certified “ready for sustainable growth” by the Swiss Innovation Agency on 23 October 2019. With the Innosuisse certificate the start-up successfully completes a phase of Core Coaching offered to young enterprises by Innosuisse. AlveoliX provides in-vitro solutions that reproduce the in-vivo environment in an unprecedented way based on proprietary and unique organ-on-chip technologies.

The team has developed a breathing lung-on-chip model, which has been tested for its clinical relevance in collaboration with the Pneumology and Thoracic Surgery Departments of the Inselspital. AlveoliX is aiming to improve preclinical decision-making and thus reducing drug development costs in an animal-sparing way. Ready for commercialization, their lung-on-chip is currently being tested by academical and pharmaceutical partners.


Innosuisse certificate received by the ARTORG spin-off AlveoliX

Delegation visit at OOC laboratory

An international delegation of representatives from Southeast University, China, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the US-American National Institutes of Health has visited the ARTORG's Organs-on-Chip (OOC) Technologies laboratory on 22 October 2019. The following day, the delegates and ARTORG experts will attend a Sino-Swiss Workshop of the Tissue Engineering for Drug Development & Substance Testing (TEDD) Competence Centre at ZHAW in Wädenswil, to exchange advances in OOC technologies and explore collaboration possibilities.

In the context of a Swiss visit of several institutions engaged in tissue engineering and organ-on-chip technologies, the delegates from China and the US at the ARTORG Center were presented with the research of Olivier Guenat's team on lung-on-chip technology, the work of Marianna Kruithof de Julio from the Department of Urology at Inselspital and the Urology research group, Department for BioMedical Research, University of Bern, on prostate-on-chip as well as the ARTORG spinoff AlveoliX. The ARTORG's OOC research group and AlveoliX are also participating/also participated in the TEDD workshop on 23 October 2019, presenting organs-on-chip models of the lung parenchyma and Swiss entrepreneurial endeavors in the field of animal-sparing drug discovery platforms.

Olivier Guenat presents the Organs-on-Chip Technologies research at ARTORG
Janick Stucki demonstrates the AlveoliX lung-on-chip system

Thomas Kurmann wins MICCAI Young Scientist Award 2019

The PhD student was awarded one of the five young talent prizes at the MICCAI conference in Shenzhen, China, on 16 October 2019. Thomas Kurmann won the prize in recognition of the excellent quality of his research entitled “Deep Multi Label Classification in Affine Subspaces”, a paper in collaboration with the Inselspital's Department of Ophthalmology.

To characterize medical imaging, multi-label classification (MLC) is becoming increasingly popular, partly because MLC is quicker than semantic segmentation yet more expressive than multi-class classification. The research team from the Artificial Intelligence in Medical Imaging laboratory at ARTORG together with the Inselspital have developed a novel deep MLC classification method that attempts to pull and push images with different class-labels towards different affine subspaces. Evaluating the new method with two MLC medical imaging datasets, the research setup could show a large performance increase compared to previous multi-label frameworks. Read the full abstract

MICCAI Young Scientist Award

Thomas Kurmann wins the MICCAI Young Scientist Award 2019
Serife Seda Kucur

PhD Defense of Serife Seda Kucur

Congratulations to Serife Seda Kucur from the Artificial Intelligence in Medical Imaging Laboratory on her successful PhD Thesis Defense on September 20, 2019! Her PhD project elaborated on the ”Exploration and Exploitation of Visual Fields: from Acquisition to Prediction of Glaucoma”.

Sinergia-Grant on hip fracture risk started

Thanks to Mio 1.4 CHF funding by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Muscoloskeletal Biomechanics Group has started a joint clinical trial with the University Hospitals of Geneva and Bern on hip fracture prevention in the elderly population. The goal is to develop and test a novel prognostic tool, integrating the risk of falls with state-of-the-art computer simulation of bone strength from different medical imaging techniques.

For this purpose, the research team under the lead of Philippe Zysset plans on “recycling” patient CT-images that were taken for other medical purposes. These CT-images will be reused together with conventional densitometry scans by ARTORG biomedical engineers to build a personalized model of each patient´s hip and compute an improved risk of fracture.

Complete project abstract in German, French and English

Hip, Musculoskeletal Biomechanics, ARTORG Center
Philippe Büchler, ARTORG Center

Philippe Büchler elected into SSBE Board

The EPFL physicist and biomechanical engineer as well as ARTORG research group head was appointed Committee member of the Swiss Society for Biomedical Engineering on 27 August 2019. The society aims at connecting the fields of education, research, manufacturing, and politics for biomedical engineering, with the goal of becoming an important BME educational partner in Switzerland. 

Because of this goal and in order to forge stronger ties with small and large companies, the SSBE strives to foster information exchanges as well as cooperation between industrial, teaching and scientific professionals who want to apply physical and technical concepts to biology and medicine. As an experienced and well-connected researcher in the fields of soft tissue engineering, Philippe Büchler will be representing the University of Bern in the society´s scientific committee, playing an important role in the organization of the upcoming SSBE meeting 2020 in Bern.

Prof. Philippe Büchler received an M.Sc. in physics from the EPFL, where he completed a Ph.D. in biomechanics on numerical analysis in orthopedics. After briefly working as a research scientist at the University hospital in Geneva, he joined the University of Bern in 2004, where he is now Associate Professor leading the Computational Bioengineering group at ARTORG. His research focuses on the development of patient-specific models, combined with the in-vivo characterization of the mechanical behavior of soft tissues.

New fully automatic lathe for the ARTORG workshop

Since September, the Mechanical Design and Production group is able to produce more complex turned parts for research assemblies on a fully automatic CNC (Computer Numerical Control) lathe. With the help of a CAM application (Computer Assisted Manufacturing), the program for manufacturing the turned parts is first created on the PC, which then controls the manufacturing process on the machine.

The machine automatically switches between 12 built-in, partly driven tools. These driven tools make it possible to machine the workpieces on the front side outside the center, as well as on the circumference with drilling, milling and threading tools. The new machine can be used for high-precision turning of metals and plastics and can produce smaller series of absolutely identical commissioned workpieces in a short time. As a fully automatic lathe, the new acquisition perfectly complements the existing portfolio of milling and turning machines in the workshop.   

New automatic lathe machine, ARTORG workshop

Bern Aphasia App receives Innosuisse grant

After a brain injury (e.g. Stroke) 30% of patients suffer from a communication disorder called Aphasia. The quicker and more regularly patients train lost communication skills such as reading, writing or speaking, the more likely they are to recover. The Gerontechnology and Rehabilitation group at ARTORG has developed a telerehabilitation app for this training, which has now been awarded an Innosuisse grant to supports its market roll-out.

Quelle: Innosuisse Innovation projects, August 2019

ARTORG participates at the sitem-insel open doors

On Friday, 30 August, sitem-insel, the Swiss Institute for Translation and Entrepreneurship in Medicine, will open its doors to the general public. The aim of sitem-insel is to transfer research results into clinical products and services as quickly as possible for the benefit of patients. As a strategic research center of the University of Bern, ARTORG and its groups at sitem-insel present their research portfolio with many activities to explore, participate in and marvel at.

The ARTORG is represented at sitem-insel building with five research groups, six ARTORG start-ups, the master's program "Biomedical Engineering" and its own workshop. Its research on site focusses on questions of blood flow in the heart, musculoskeletal biomechanics, rehabilitation of motor skills after a stroke, computer-based models to improve surgical interventions in orthopedics, and therapy options for bladder and kidney weakness. ARTORG at sitem-insel covers the entire spectrum from complex basic research to completely new treatment methods that are already being used in the Inselspital clinics.

Find out more about our projects and test our research!

Sitem-insel open doors

Friday, 30 August 2019, 10-16h, Freiburgstrasse 3, Bern

Our groups and topics to explore:
Computational Bioengineering
What are the tissue properties of my patient?

Cardiovascular and Urogenital Engineering
Ideal flow through the artificial heart valve
Technologies for the urinary system

Musculoskeletal Biomechanics
How stable are my bones?

Mechanical Design and Production
Get to know the ARTORG research workshop

Meet two of our six ARTORG startups that stand for our sustainable translation strategy:
AlveoliX AG
An alternative to animal experiments in drug development: a breathing lung on a chip
RetinAI AG
A working version of the software solution to support diagnosis of eye diseases using artificial intelligence

sitem-insel is a joint project of the federal government, the Canton of Berne, the University of Berne, the Inselspital and industry, in particular the medtech and pharmaceutical industries. It is organized as a public-private partnership and is intended to help establish Berne as a leading international medical location.

Newsletter Uniaktuell vom 26. August 2019

Simon Scheurer wins SSBE student award

The Bern Biomedical Engineering student wins the Ypsomed sponsored student award on 27 August 2019. His master´s thesis investigating into a novel device to improve fall detection in the elderly was only recently awarded a prize by the University of Bern´s “Seniorenuniversität”. 

Simon Scheurer has completed the Bernese MSc program in Biomedical Engineering between 2015 and 2018. For his end-of-studies project, he worked on optimizing a first-generation fall detection system at the Institute for Human Centered Engineering, Berne University of Applied Sciences (Prof. Martin Kucera), and the Gerontechnology and Rehabilitation group (Prabitha Urwyler) of the ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research, University of Bern.

At the Annual meeting of the Swiss Society of Biomedical Engineering (SSBE) at the Campus Biotech in Geneva Scheurer was granted the 2000 CHF SSBE Student Award 2019, sponsored by Ypsomed. In July hismaster's thesis "Optimizing and Validating a Fall Detection System Through Experimental Studies in the Everyday Life of the Elderly", was granted a promotional prize by the Senior University Bern (“Seniorenuniversität Bern"), to be presented at the University´s Dies Academicus on 7 December 2019.

The system “AIDE-MOI” uses a plaster worn by people at risk of falling on the upper body and can automatically detect falls with a special algorithm and trigger an alarm. For two studies, 20 elderly participants with a high risk of falls were recruited from different regions around Bern. AIDE-MOI employed acceleration and temperature sensors to monitor the participants.

Simon Scheurer is currently employed at Oxomed AG in Bern Liebefeld, a startup he established together with an interdisciplinary team, consisting of engineers, nurses and businesspeople for the development and distribution of appropriate hardware and software products in this sector of the healthcare market.

Simon Scheurer holding a sensor for the system AIDE-MOI
Simon Scheurer
Alvin Chesham and his mentor Dario Cazzoli

PhD Defense of Alvin Chesham

Congratulations to Alvin Chesham from the Gerontechnology & Rehabilitation Group on his successful PhD Thesis Defense on August 23, 2019! His PhD project is entitled "Puzzling the Mind: Development and Evaluation of Puzzle Games to Assess Cognitive and Motor Function in Neurocognitive Aging".

PhD Defense of Barna Becsek

We would like to congratulate Mr. Barna Becsek of the Cardiovascular Engineering Research Group on his successful PhD thesis defense on August 21, 2019. His PhD project is entitled "High-Performance Computing Numerical Fluid-Structure Interaction - Framework for the Simulation of Aortic Valve Hemodynamics".

Barna Becsek

Children's heart models supporting surgeons

The Image-guided Therapies group at ARTORG prints life-size children's heart models in 3D printers so that pediatric heart surgeons can better plan an intervention in an infant or toddler with a congenital heart defect. The realistic models also serve to train prospective surgeons in complex heart defects. 

After more than 6 hours, the 3D printer in the cellar of the ARTORG Center has printed the children's heart true to life. The heart is only the size of a plum, but it shows the pediatric heart surgeons at the Inselspital exactly what anatomical structures they will find on a newborn or toddler during heart surgery.

The models are created by the Research Group for Image-guided Therapies at the ARTORG Center in collaboration with the Inselspital, using the patient´s computer tomograms, CT or MRI images. They are printed from resin and exactly represent the anatomy of the child who has to undergo surgery due to a heart defect.

"This is based on the desire that we want to be as well prepared as possible for surgery and be able to offer the best solution available to us in order to help the child," explains Alexander Kadner, head of cardiac surgery for congenital heart defects at the Inselspital, in an SRF interview. The models will also be used for the training of pediatric cardio-surgeons, as they are much more realistic than the models previously used.

3D-Ausdruck eines lebensgrossen Kinderherzens
Alexander Kadner, Inselspital
Stephan Gerber

PhD Defense of Stephan Gerber

Congratulations to Stephan Gerber from the Gerontechnology & Rehabilitation Group on his successful PhD Thesis Defense on June 20, 2019 ! His research focused on the Development and Evaluation of a Virtual Reality Setup for Cognitive Stimulation in Critically Ill Patients .

ARTORG trains outstanding poly-mechanics

Simon Lüthi and Fabio Spena, apprentices in the Mechanical Design and Production workshop at the ARTORG Center, were both honored in June for their above-average performance. The ARTORG is proud and congratulates its talented offspring.

The ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research operates its own in-house workshop for its medical custom-made products. In addition, the Mechanical Design and Production group offers two apprenticeship positions for poly-mechanics EFZ, which are filled alternately every two years. In June 2019, both apprentices of the workshop were awarded prizes:

Fabio Spena completed his 4-year apprenticeship with a grade of 5.3 and thus the second-best result in Bern-Mittelland. On 25 June 2019, he was honored for this top result by the GIBB vocational school in Berne on the Muristalden campus. Simon Lüthi passed the compulsory partial examination after two years of basic training with a grade of 5.5. On 15 June 2019, Simon also reached 1st place for Bern-Biel-Mittelland as part of a milling competition organized by FRAISA.

ARTORG is delighted that its apprentices are among tomorrow's top experts in the field of precision mechanics and congratulates them warmly. Starting in August 2021, there will be a free apprentice position at ARTORG´s workshop.

Simon Lüthi and Fabio Spena (photo: Urs Rohrer)

Lutz Nolte receives CAOS-International Life Time Award

The founding father of the International Society for Computer Assisted Orthopaedic Surgery (CAOS-International) was honored for his life's work at the society´s 25th anniversary in New York. 

Lutz-Peter Nolte is a key figure in surgical technologies and image-guided interventions in Switzerland and internationally. He is professor emeritus for Surgical Technology and Biomechanics as well as senior innovation advisor at the vice-rectorate of research of the University of Bern, Switzerland. In July 2019, Prof. em Dr.-Ing. Lutz Nolte became CEO of the Translational Imaging Center (TIC), a clinical research and cooperation center for Ultra High Field Magnetic Resonance Imaging, housed at sitem-insel, the Swiss Institute for Translational and Entrepreneurial Medicine in Bern.

A Civil Engineer by training, Lutz Nolte joined the Bioengineering Center at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, USA, in 1990 to extend the scope of his research to computer-aided surgery in collaboration with the Department of Neurosurgery. In 1993, he took over the Orthopaedic Biomechanics Division at the Maurice E. Müller (MEM) Institute for Biomechanics in Bern. Lutz Nolte was co-founder and first director of both, the Institute for Surgical Technology and Biomechanics and The ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research. From 2001 to 2013 he was the co-director of the Swiss National Center for Competence in Research (NCCR) “Computer-aided and Image-guided Medical Interventions” (

In 1995 Prof. Nolte organized the inauguration of the Annual CAOS-Symposium in Bern, bringing together about 20 pioneers in the field. In 2001 the Bern and Pittsburgh CAOS-Symposia joined forces and the International Society for Computer Assisted Orthopaedic Surgery (CAOS-International) was founded with Prof. Nolte as its first President. He was presented with the CAOS-International "Founder & Life Time Achievement Award” on the occasion of the Special 25th Anniversary Tribute & Keynote in New York on 21 June 2019 and since July holds the merit of Honorary Membership of CAOS-International.

Lutz Nolte received the CAOS-International Life Time Award

EPFL student Yara Proust was fascinated by ARTORG´s lung-on-chip

For her Master´s project, the 24-year-old bioengineering student spent several months at Olivier Guenat´s research group to study their breathing lung-on-chip AlveoliX. For the EPFL homepage, she recounts her experiences. 

At first, Yara planned to go abroad but then decided for Bern instead of Paris and Eindhoven. The offer of the Bern-based startup, a spinoff of the Organs-on-Chip Technologies research groups at ARTORG, convinced her – an impression backed up by the spirit she found on sight: “I decided on Alveolix almost immediately. We exchanged a few emails and they invited me for a 90-minute interview. As soon as I walked through the door, it just felt right.” 

All of her experiences to be read on the EPFL homepage.

Yara Proust, bioengineering student
©Alain Herzog/EPFL

10 Papers to be presented at MICCAI 2019

Research teams at the ARTORG and Inselsplital will be presenting 10 papers at the highly selective International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Intervention (MICCAI). This year the conference will take place in Shen Zhen, China (October 2019). The papers focus on a variety of topics in the area of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and medical imaging:

  • Spatial-Frequency Non-Local Convolutional LSTM Network for pRCC classification
  • Assessing Reliability and Challenges of Uncertainty Estimations for Medical Image Segmentation
  • Learning Shape Representation on Sparse Point Clouds for Volumetric Image Segmentation
  • Dual-Stream Pyramid Registration Network
  • Concept-Centric Visual Turing Tests for Method Validation
  • Fused Detection of Retinal Biomarkers in OCT Volumes
  • Deep Multi-Label Classification in Affine Subspaces
  • Image data validation for medical systems
  • U-ReSNet: Ultimate coupling of Registration and Segmentation with deep Nets

  • Robust Cochlear Modiolar Axis Detection in CT

Congratulations to all the teams involved.

Raphael Sznitman becomes Director of the ARTORG Center

After seven years the leadership of the ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research transitions from Prof. Dr.-Ing. Stefan Weber to Prof. Dr. Raphael Sznitman, who will head the Artificial Intelligence in Medical Imaging Group at the University of Bern.

Prof. Raphael Sznitman joined the ARTORG Center in 2014 to lead the Ophthalmic Technology Laboratory group, from a postdoctoral fellowship in the Computer Vision Laboratory of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. He holds a BSc. in Cognitive Science from the University of British Columbia (Canada) and completed his doctoral studies in Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University (U.S.A.).

In May 2019, Prof. Sznitman was elected a full professor at the University of Bern. In this position, he will establish the Artificial Intelligence in Medical Imaging Group at the ARTORG to develop applications in biomedical imaging, diagnostics, interventions, surgery, and therapeutic decision-making. Prof. Sznitman has successfully developed artificial intelligence and machine learning tools for clinical applications in ophthalmology, some of which are already in use at the Department of Ophthalmology at Inselspital, Bern University Hospital.

Founded in 2008 as a Strategic Center by the University of Bern and the Inselspital, the ARTORG maintains its mission of translational research in clinical practice to ensure that solutions meet the needs of clinical reality. In 2012, Prof. Stefan Weber became the second ARTORG Director. During his 7-year tenure, the ARTORG’s research teams grew their portfolios and visibility, winning funding from national and international institutions as well as commercial partners. The period also saw an increase in the number of technologies entered into clinical trials and brought successful commercial ARTORG spinouts into the clinic. Prof. Weber will now take on the position of CEO at CAScination AG, one of ARTORG’s spinouts and will keep a reduced role in research and teaching at the University. 

To date, the ARTORG has an outstanding reputation as a research center in the domain of biomedical engineering. Through joining forces with the Institute for Surgical Technology and Biomechanics at the beginning of 2019 ARTORG broadened its portfolio from 7 to 11 research groups. The ARTORG groups now housed both in Murtenstrasse 50 and sitem-insel, will continue translational research to address new unmet clinical needs and bring forward better tools for diagnosis and treatment for the benefit of patients and doctors.

Portrait photo
Tanja Kurt

CAScination wins MedTech Award 2019 for robotic microsurgery technology

Improved cochlear implantation thanks to a computer-based surgical planning and robotic surgery platform for ENT surgeons - The Bernese startup develops technology for minimally invasive surgery to restore hearing with a cochlear implant with millimeter precision and high reproducibility that can lead to better hearing outcomes.

In case of sensorineural hearing loss, a cochlear implant can help the affected person to hear again. The Bernese company CAScination in collaboration with leading European CI manufacturer MED-EL has developed the world's first planning software for ear surgery OTOPLAN®. Prior to surgery the software allows for detailed studying of the individual patient anatomy and for accurate planning of the implantation path for the cochlear hearing aid. A robotic surgery platform HEARO® then allows highly precise access into the inner ear, without damaging sensitive structures such as nerves or the cochlea tissue itself. 

„This award recognizes the stakeholders in academia, medicine and commerce of the Canton Bern that can turn the potential of Medtech development into real products that benefit patients and their families”, Stefan Weber, Director of the ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research at the University of Berne and, with Matthias Peterhans (CEO) and Marco Matulic (CTO), a cofounder of CAScination. 

After winning its first MedTech Award in 2013 for its system for an interventional navigation system for the treatment of liver metastases, CAScination wins the coveted award of the Swiss medical technology industry for the second time. The prize of CHF 50’000 is sponsored by Lichtsteiner Stiftung, Straumann group and Ypsomed.

Med Tech Award 2019 CAScination
Peter Mosimann

Philippe Zysset elected EAMBES fellow

In March 2019, the European Alliance for Medical and Biological Engineering & Science (EAMBES) has appointed ARTORG professor a fellow to recognize his accomplishments in Medical and Biological Engineering. EAMBES fellows guide the society’s activities by leveraging their experience and standing to expand its educational and research network around the world.

Philippe Zysset is a distinguished investigator in the field of biomedical engineering (BME), with broad scientific experience from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA, and the Vienna University of Technology, Austria. In Vienna, he initiated a Master’s program in BME and since 2011 he heads the Master Program in BME of the University of Bern (UniBE). As an EAMBES fellow, he will showcase and promote BME as a seminal profession and highlight the assets of the BME program at UniBE, which is uniquely integrated with clinical practice at Inselspital, Bern University Hospital.

Since 2019, Prof.  Zysset heads a group in Musculoskeletal Biomechanics within the ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research. His research interests include theoretical, experimental and computational biomechanics of bone and the bone-implant interface covering the full spectrum from basic research to clinical studies. He is a member of various scientific boards and acts as a reviewer for more than 20 international journals in biomechanics and biomedical engineering. He has published more than 200 papers in peer-reviewed international journals, conference proceedings, and books.

Portrait photo

Double victory at Bernese Business Creation Competition

Teams of the ARTORG Center claim the first and second prize at the 4th Bernese Business Creation Competition.
A total of 45 business ideas entered the selection process in January of which 16 were selected to participate in coaching sessions and workshops where the projects were refined. Out of these, five teams were invited to the final event held at the Bierhübeli where the teams pitched their business ideas in front of a jury and 200 guests.
We congratulate the team PeriVision consisting of Jan Stapelfeldt, Serife Kucur and Prof. Dr. Raphael Sznitman to an excellent business pitch and for taking the first prize of 10’000 CHF.
The second prize valued at 5’000 CHF goes to team URODEA including Dr. Franceso Clavica and Prof. Dr. Dominik Obrist.

Young Robotics Talent from Bern/Jura

The ARTORG is growing its own crop of future roboticists as this year’s sponsor of the “World Robot Olympiad” qualifier in Bern/Jura.
The World Robot Olympiad (“WRO”) is an annual event that takes place since 2004 with 26,000 participating teams from 65 countries around the world.
Teams are split into three age groups and were given task instructions in January to allow design and testing of solutions on the LEGO Mindstorm platform. On competition day the teams must assemble their robot design in 120’ Mins and demonstrate the intended functionality as well as solve an additional challenge they are given only on the day.
For the Bern/Jura region 19 teams with a total of 50 members participated and the three winning teams from the CEJEF-EMT (JU), Freies Gymnasium (BE) and MSO Friedbühl (BE) will attend the Swiss WRO final on June 15 in Aarburg.
The winners will represent Switzerland later in the year in Györ, Hungary. The WRO is a fun-filled opportunity to encourage interest in STEMM subjects and capture the imagination of children and young adults for the role of basic sciences like mathematics and physics for applications in computer science and robotics.
Good Luck to the three Bern/Jura winning teams and maybe we will see you as students here at the ARTORG one day.

WRO 2019

Seal of Excellence

Mirunalini Thirugnanasambandam has been awarded the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Seal of Excellence (European Commission – Horizon 2020). She receives the award for her project MInTARP, Multimodal Analysis of Intraluminal Thrombus for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Rupture Risk Prediction (in collaboration with the Department of Diagnostic, Interventional and Pediatric Radiology (DIPR), Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, and the Switzerland Innovation Park) as a recognition of its quality, value and potential. This quality label enables the recipient to apply for the “Seal of Excellence Fund”, an internal grant of the University of Bern (, that aims to increase the chances of postdocs of obtaining a competitive career development grant within two years. 
Prof. Hendrik von Tengg-Kobligk, DIPR and Department for BioMedical Research, University of Bern, as the project's host supervisor will support the goal of identifying the impact of comprehensive vascular imaging with special focus on the vessel wall, e.g. in patients with abdominal aortic aneurysms.

Prix Retina 2019 for Tatiana Fountoukidou

We are pleased that Tatiana Fountoukidou from the Ophthalmic Technology Laboratory has been elected as a recipient for the Prix Retina 2019 for her project “Motion-invariant SRT treatment detection from direct M-scan OCT imaging”. The Jury selected her proposal as a very well documented highly interesting ophthalmologic topic which demonstrates the potential for high clinical impact.

UroDEA comes first at the Start-Up Week-End Biel/Bienne 2019 (#SWBB 2019)

Francesco Clavica, head of the Urogenital Engineering Group of the ARTORG Center for Biomedical engineering research and inventor of the UroDEA urination assistance device, won the first prize at the Start-Up Week-End Biel/Bienne 2019. The event included exercises and workshops on business models, investor pitches and prototypes with the help of experts. The #SWBB 2019 Judges panel considered UroDEA the most promising project and awarded the prize of a trip to Berlin, Germany to meet start-up mentors and peers.

NCCR Robotics Laura Marchal-Crespo

In February 2019 Prof. Dr. Laura Marchal-Crespo of the Gerontechnology and Rehabilitation has been made a core member of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Robotics for Phase 3 and will receive support for a four year project on control of supernumerary robotic arms. The NCCR Robotics (leading house EPFL) is supporting human–oriented robotic technology research and Prof Marchal-Crespo’s project will be part of the Wearable Robots research strand in which the robot neurological interfaces and interactions are investigated for example to make the use of rehabilitation robots more practical and patient-specific.

ARTORG Juniors at the 4th Bernese Business Creation Competition

The ARTORG participated the 4th Bernese 4th Bernese Business Creation Competition with four creative medical technology projects. Francesco Clavica and Mirunalini Thirugnanasambandam of the Cardiovascular Engineering group presented a non-invasive, assistive device for sufferers of underactive bladder which affects up to 45 Mio people in Europe alone. The UroDEA device is a simple gadget, suitably adapted for men and women that can be used when needed while passing urine. It is hygienic and poses almost no infection risk, as it does not get into contact with urine. Mirunalini Thirugnanasambandam also presented a project in collaboration with the SIPBB. LiveRisk focuses on developing a novel real-time monitoring platform, which can forecast the risk of rupture of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA). With this smartphone app, patients can track the growth of their AAAs at home, reducing, therefore, health costs, mortality rates, and emergency surgeries. The Image Guided Therapy group was represented by Luca Sahli, Frederick Johnson with their idea of the Surgeon’s Lab. Complex surgical procedures like brain aneurysms or delicate vascular surgery have little options for a “dry run” before the actual intervention. Ideally a surgeon would be able to train and rehearse a procedure to develop the skills for a particular patient or for a procedure. The Surgeon’s Lab will produce and market surgical training models for surgeons of organs made with “life like” materials that functionally represent the disease anatomy that has to be operated on. The cost-effective models will give surgeons at all levels hands on training options for complex surgeries to build technical abilities and confidence. The Ophthalmic Technologies Laboratory presented PeriVision, an artificial intelligence-based, ophthalmology device that can be used to carry out glaucoma diagnosis anywhere. At present perimetry is a hospital or clinic based procedure, with all the disadvantages of scheduling and waiting times. The PeriVision mobile perimetry is more flexible, the testing can be done anywhere, for example in an optician or maybe even at home. The test is faster and less tiring than the traditional hospital test, and gives as good a result. With mobile perimetry the main patient demographic of glaucoma patients who are 65+, will have access to more convenient and better glaucoma management. The ARTORG teams will receive 3 months of coaching from commercial, finance, marketing and management experts to refine business models and company strategies. A final jury then selects 5 business models for cash prizes from CHF 10’000 – 3’000. Congratulations to all the teams and Good Luck for the next stage.

PhD Defense Stergios Christodoulidis

PhD Defense of Stergios Christodoulidis

We would like to congratulate Mr. Stergios Christodoulidis of the Diabetes Technology Research on his successful PhD thesis defense on March 7th 2019. His PhD project is entitled "Lung Pattern Analysis using Artificial Intelligence for the Diagnosis Support of Interstitial Lung Diseases" was a collaboration between ARTORG and Inselspital, and was supported by SNSF and Lindenhof foundation.

Young Investigator Travel Award for Iwan Paolucci

Congratulations to Iwan Paolucci from the Image-Guided Therapy group, who receives the Young Investigator Travel Award at the conference SMIT (Society for Medical Innovation and Technology) in Seoul, Korea.

Stefanos Apostolopoulos

PhD Defense of Stefanos Apostolopoulos

Congratulations to Stefanos Apostolopoulos from the Ophthalmic Technology Laboratory on his successful PhD Thesis Defense on January 17, 2019! His research focused on Reliable Registration and Tracking Framework for Disease Progression Monitoring using Optical Coherence Tomography.

Ypsomed Innovation Award

Congratulations to the team of Prof. Raphael Sznitman from ARTORG Center for the 2nd place at Ypsomed Innovation Award for the development of a smart algorithm, which makes virtual reality goggles to perimetry mobile devices: