Prof. Niels Kuster

Prof. Niels Kuster, Director of the IT’IS Foundation.



An Interview with Niels Kuster, founder of IT’IS for Health 

Niels, what exactly is IT’IS for Health?

With our new IT’IS for Health research program, we are heavily invested in the development of computational models specifically adapted for the study of complex physical, chemical, and biological processes occurring in the human body, and for the design and optimization of medical applications for personalized medicine. Physiology is complex and disease adds even more intricacy. To be sure we have it right, a large part of our work is validation of our computational predictions, which means we also put substantial effort into developing new measurement techniques. In short, we model life processes, we simulate interactions with external stimuli, we develop and combine physical, chemical and biological models, and we check all our work against reality.

How did IT’IS build up those competences? 

When IT’IS was founded in 1999, the mobile communications world was evolving at a dizzying pace. The question on many minds was, “Can we be sure there’s no health hazard from exposures to mobile phones?” There wasn’t enough in-depth knowledge for an answer, so IT’IS stepped in to fill a wide scientific gap. In a relatively short time we were able to make major advances in understanding how radiofrequency energy is absorbed in the body. Our instruments, software, and exposure systems were critical for the many scientists worldwide conducting laboratory experiments, and epidemiologic studies, and setting standards for the safe use of electromagnetic energy.

Those groundbreaking developments involved a lot of hard work by many brilliant researchers from the physical, biological, medical, computational and engineering sciences. It has been critically important that our researchers are great at teamwork and collaborate closely with many groups at renowned institutions throughout the world. Thereby, beginning from a focus on mobile phones, our successes due to our unique mix of disciplines and a large collaborative network created this unique center where we can generate concepts and models for simulations of living systems. This also is the key to progress in understanding health and disease.

What areas of research does IT’IS for Health prioritize?

Our research priorities are those of personalized medicine. It can be the treatment of aneurysm progression today and that of Parkinson's disease tomorrow. Any contribution towards improving human health and life quality is a contribution we want to make and we are always excited about new challenges. What we offer are computational tools to exploit the information and understanding that the biomedical sciences are accruing and to facilitate the translation of novel results form bench to bedside. The flexibility these tools offer provides us with an unlimited versatility. Our only constraints are time and financial resources. IT’IS is poised to drive progress in medical sciences and technologies and IT’IS for Health was founded specifically to conduct the research needed in computational methods for personalized medicine. The time is now and we are ready.