German Future Prize for Prof. Dr. Michael Uder!

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Dr. David Grodzki, Dr. Stephan Biber and Prof. Dr. Michael Uder, together with the Federal President Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier. (image: Siemens Healthineers)

Erlangen team receive the German Future Prize from the Federal President for developing the innovative low-field MRI platform.

This year, the Federal President’s prize for technology and innovation has been awarded to a team from Erlangen. Prof. Dr. Michael Uder, Director of the Institute of Radiology at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen and Chair of Diagnostic Radiology at FAU, was awarded the German Future Prize 2023 on November 22, 2023, with his two team colleagues from Siemens Healthineers. Together with Dr. David Grodzki and FAU alumnus Dr. Stephan Biber, Prof. Uder was involved in developing Magnetom Free, a platform for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with a low field strength. “Winning the Future Prize is a great honor and a special accolade for the entire team. It is also recognition for the many years’ close cooperation between Universitätsklinikum and Siemens Healthineers,” said Prof. Uder at the awards ceremony. The German Future Prize is worth 250,000 euros.

Starting point and motivation

The technology of MRIs is complex and expensive, which often makes it difficult to install them. Crucial factors include the high amounts of helium needed, the high field strength, the machine’s size and the lack of qualified staff to operate the machine. This is why it is often not possible to install an MRI, especially in areas without adequate infrastructure. When the team around Prof. Uder started their project in Erlangen in 2012, they wanted to tackle these issues in particular.

In fact, the radiation-free imaging procedure that is most often used for orthopedic complaints, neurological diseases and cancer is extremely important in the diagnostic process. The team had to approach MRIs from a completely new angle in their effort to improve the current global situation. “By changing several variables and combining them with each other in an innovative way, we succeeded in creating a system that a lot of people across the world will be able to benefit from in the future. The new development from Erlangen will play a decisive role for many patients, particularly in less economically developed regions”, explains Michael Uder.

Already in operation

Magnetom Free, which was launched in 2021, is already in use in Brazil, India, Angola and even Yemen. Another machine has been installed at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen for the Department of Pediatric Radiology in the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (Director: Prof. Dr. Joachim Wölfle). “In the future, we are considering installing scanners directly in intensive care wards, in order to save patients a journey and cut down on waiting times,” explains Michael Uder. “We are also pleased that technologies we developed specifically for Magnetom Free are to be used for future models of larger MRI systems, for example the closed helium circuit.”

“I am very pleased about this honor and warmly congratulate Michael Uder and his team colleagues,” said Prof. Dr. Heinrich Iro, Medical Director of Universitätsklinikum Erlangen. “The fact that Germany’s most prestigious award for technology and innovation goes to a team from Erlangen this year is further proof of how strong our region is when it comes to research and development, and how well our experts work together across professions and company boundaries.”

Master students of Medical Engineering at FAU can attend Prof. Uder’s lecture “Bild am Dienstag”, which analyzes X-rays, CAT and MR scans and sonograms.

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