About Us

Leading a new front against cancer

We improve patient lives by unlocking the tissue phenome.

In oncology, therapeutic strategies have shifted from a direct assault on cancer cells to recruiting the immune system to attack the disease. The recent advances in immuno-oncology (IO) are hailed as some of the most innovative breakthroughs in cancer treatment modalities.*

At Definiens, our mission is to accelerate targeted drug development in IO therapy by helping scientists leverage Tissue Phenomics® to deepen their understanding of disease biology and immune system mechanisms, to bring multi-omics data into a cancer-relevant context, and to facilitate the translation of new insights into novel therapies and treatment strategies.

*Named by ASCO as the ‘Advance of the Year’ in both 2016 and 2017

Our People

Headquartered in Munich, Germany, with the North America subsidiary in Cambridge, MA, Definiens draws talents from top-tier universities around the globe. Ours is a culture of curiosity, diversity, and openness. Our highly educated staff, with more than 70% holding Master’s, PhD, or MD degrees, embodies the spirit of scientific discovery. Represented by more than 40 different nationalities, our diverse workforce thrives in an open and collaborative work environment.

Our Impact

Definiens’ pioneering image analysis tools have historically supported researchers in both academic institutions and the biopharmaceutical industry. More recently, Definiens’ Insights Services has supported drug development research worldwide via our interdisciplinary team of scientists, pathologists, image analysis experts, and bioinformaticians. We use the most advanced and sophisticated machine intelligence by combining artificial intelligence (deep learning), classic machine learning and Cognition Network Technology (CNT) to deliver biological insights to expedite drug discovery.

Our History

Nobel Laureate Dr. Gerd Binnig founded Definiens in 1994 to develop Cognition Network Technology (CNT), an intelligent pattern recognition approach to image analysis. CNT mimics the human brain, employing hierarchical and iterative methods to identify and label an object within its context. Definiens has since become a world leader in image analysis by applying this innovation to the field of digital pathology to offer:

  • An object-based image analysis development tool (eCognition®, 2000)
  • A user-friendly tissue image analysis tool in oncology research (Tissue Map, 2007)
  • A leading machine-learning platform for biomarker research (Tissue Studio®, 2009)

Since spinning off the geospace division in 2010, Definiens has focused on supporting oncology research with software solutions and consulting service offerings. In 2014, Definiens was acquired by MedImmune, responsible for AstraZeneca's global biologics R&D. Since AstraZeneca's restructure in January 2019 to create two R&D organizations, we are collaborating with multiple teams within AstraZeneca to further expand Definiens' capabilities in immuno-oncology and other disease areas. 

In late 2017, Definiens coalesced years of expertise in image analysis and bioinformatics into the first tissue-based multi-biomarker panel, the Definiens IO-Panel, designed to assist IO drug developers in rapid signature discovery and patient stratification.

Our Vision

Our vision is to improve patient lives by matching patients to the best therapies based on the most comprehensive digital profiling.

Today our Insights Services consulting teams help drug developers to discover biomarker signatures for optimal patient stratification. Together with our global partners, Definiens envisions a future where comprehensive companions diagnostic tools can help clinicians match patients with the best therapies available for an effective treatment plan with less side effects.

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A thought leader and technology innovator, Definiens brings the power of Tissue Phenomics to developments in oncology and immuno-oncology to improve patient, disease and treatment outcomes.

Tissue Phenomics

Learn about our unique tissue signatures that accelerate cancer breakthroughs

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Executive Management Team

Executive Management

Thomas Heydler Photo

Chief Executive Officer

Thomas Heydler

Thomas P. Heydler joined Definiens in 2004. He brings more than 20 years of entrepreneurial expertise and in-depth knowledge of the global software business to Definiens.

Mr. Heydler was President and CEO at Barcelona Design Inc. based in San Jose, USA. Before joining Barcelona, Mr. Heydler served as President and CEO for InterPro Business Solutions, Inc., USA. He was Vice President and Executive Officer at Documentum Inc., a leading software and solutions provider with specific focus on the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry.

He built and drove Documentum’s European operations and assumed worldwide responsibility for Marketing and Documentum’s Application Business subsequently. Prior to this engagement, he served as Vice President and General Manager Europe for Cadence Design Systems and held senior leadership positions at Siemens AG.

Mr. Heydler holds a Diplom-Ingenieur degree in Electric Engineering and Computer Science from the Technical University in Munich.

Markus Schunk Photo

Chief Operating Officer

Markus Schunk

Markus Schunk joined Definiens in September 2018 with more than 10 years’ experience in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as well as investment and portfolio management.

In his previous role as CEO of Holtzbrinck Digital, he was responsible for the global digital and technology portfolio of the Holtzbrinck Group. During that time, he gained a broad sector experience in the direct-to-consumer internet market establishing market leaders in Germany as well as in SaaS business with a focus on the science, medicine, and education segments operating globally. 

Under his leadership, successful exits like Parship dating app had a vital contribution to the shareholder value of the Holtzbrinck Group. Furthermore, the Digital Science portfolio - a carve out of the Nature Publishing Group –  became one of the fastest growing activities under his responsibility. 

During his career, Markus held several senior positions in general management in the role as CFO and served as a member of the Board for more than 30 companies.

Markus holds a Masters of Business Administration (Diplom-Kaufmann) from the University of Tübingen (DE).

Ralf Huss, MD Photo

Chief Medical Officer

Ralf Huss, MD

Dr. Ralf Huss MD, Ph.D. joined Definiens in 2015 as Chief Medical Officer with further responsibilities in Science & Innovation following founder and Nobel laureate Gerd Binning’s role.

Dr. Huss is a board-certified surgical and molecular pathologist and obtained his medical doctorate from the Universität Erlangen (DE) in 1991. He is specialized in internal medicine (Universitätsspital Zürich (CH)) and immunology (Institut für Pathologie under Nobel Laureate Rolf M. Zinkernagel), Universität Zürich (CH). Also, Huss is an Associate Professor at Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universität München (DE), a lecturer at the Technische Universität München, and honorary professor at the School of Medicine, University College Dublin (IE).

Dr. Huss spent his early career during the 1990s as a Research Associate in Nobel laureate Edward D. Thomas’ Laboratory at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle, Washington (US). Later, he returned to Europe to become an immunology researcher at the Institut für Immunologie, Universitätsklinikum Essen (DE) and completed his pathology training at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University München (Institut für Pathologie) between 1995 and 2005. 

In 2005, he joined Roche Diagnostics as Global Head of Pathology and Tissue Biomarkers and later headed the Cell Therapy Initiative at Roche Penzberg (DE). In 2011, he joined apceth GmbH, a stem-cell and gene-therapy company which he co-founded in München, as Chief Scientific Officer, where he worked until starting at Definiens in 2015.