AIP successful in European contest for knowledge and technology transfer

April 8 2019, updated 22 May 2019. From galaxy research to the fight against cancer – the research and innovation center innoFSPEC, part of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP), receives funding by the European Commission for the development of pioneering technology for economy and society. Today's kick-off meeting at CERN in Geneva marked the start of the one-year funding period for all 170 projects funded under the ATTRACT research and innovation project.
AIP successful in European contest for knowledge and technology transfer

Credits: NASA, Zarya Maxim/; Montage: University of Potsdam, ZIM

The rewarded idea „3D-CANCER-SPEC“ by the research and innovation center innoFSPEC is based on accomplishments in the transfer of high-technology from astronomy research to cancer diagnostics. The aim is an optical design study for the development of a prototype suitable for clinical studies. The innoFSPEC team under leadership of Prof. Dr. Martin Roth and a French industry partner, Winlight Systems, jointly and successfully entered the ATTRACT contest. "Under the motto 'From Molecules to Galaxies', we have been working on interdisciplinary research topics for several years – we are pleased that these efforts are now coming to fruition," explains Roth.

As part of the transfer idea “3D-CANCER-SPEC”, they will now develop a compact screening device, based on an original MUSE spectrograph, in a one-year funding phase. The concept will be publicized in a science journal and a presentation at the final ATTRACT conference in September 2020 in Brussels. This support is expected to encourage funding of a medical device by funding bodies or industrial companies.

Basic research, as it is practiced at the AIP, facilitates excellence in the development of high-technology. Imaging spectroscopy with instruments like PMAS and MUSE and the analysis of huge amounts of data (big data) with artificial intelligence in eScience are some examples. Since its establishment in 2009, innoFSPEC Potsdam engages in the utilization of high-technology developed during its research of optical technologies and photonics for economy and society. Among the center’s efforts is the transfer of imaging spectroscopy in astronomy to minimally invasive cancer diagnostics. This experiment, a cooperation with Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, was successfully completed in 2018 with a publication in the renowned Journal of Biomedical Optics. Additionally, two further projects in the Leibniz research alliance Health Technologies address bladder cancer diagnostics and technological improvements for use in surgery. These projects in partnership with the Leibniz Association and industry partners have already led to one patent application.

Spectroscopy is a powerful technique that can be used to determine the composition of an object from the light it emits, whether that light comes from an object in space or a person's body on Earth. Cancerous tissue differs enough from healthy tissue that it can be distinguished using Raman Spectroscopy — providing a promising way to avoid taking invasive tissue samples. While this has previously been shown to work in principle, the imaging process took hours, which is far too long to be practically useful. To make this process fast enough in a clinical setting, the team plans to apply a special technique of integral-field spectroscopy — as used by MUSE at the Very Large Telescope of ESO — developed to solve a particular challenge of astronomical imaging.

One stated aim of the Pact for Research and Innovation is to strengthen the exchange of science with economy and society. Against this background, the biggest European research organizations such as the high energy laboratory CERN, the X-ray laser laboratory XFEL or the European South Observatory ESO have sponsored the project ATTRACT with a total of 17 million euros funded by the European Commission. All in all, the project rewards 170 exceptional transfer ideas in the area of detecting and imaging technologies. Among them are promising application innovations in microelectronics, information and communication or life sciences and medical technology.


ESO press release

Attract press release

Attract Website

innoFSPEC Website

More about Muse

Scientific contact

Prof. Dr. Martin Matthias Roth, 0331-7499-313,

Media contact

Sarah Hönig, 0331-7499-803,


Elmar Schmälzlin, Benito Moralejo, Ingo Gersonde, Johannes Schleusener, Maxim E. Darvin, Gisela Thiede, Martin M. Roth, “ Nonscanning large-area Raman imaging for ex vivo /in vivo skin cancer discrimination,” J. Biomed. Opt. 23 (10), 105001 (2018)


The key areas of research at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) are cosmic magnetic fields and extragalactic astrophysics. A considerable part of the institute's efforts aim at the development of research technology in the fields of spectroscopy, robotic telescopes, and e-science. The AIP is the successor of the Berlin Observatory founded in 1700 and of the Astrophysical Observatory of Potsdam founded in 1874. The latter was the world's first observatory to emphasize explicitly the research area of astrophysics. The AIP has been a member of the Leibniz Association since 1992.