Why I Joined Q Bio: Thomas Witzel, VP of Radiomics

I’m excited to share that I’ve joined Q Bio as VP of Radiomics. My journey here has been a long time coming. Even before entering college, I had decided that I wanted to focus on radiomics. I thrived on solving problems since I was a boy, but I was really bad at playing computer games. I could never win! And often I ended up just hacking my computer. My mother always thought that my computer was broken because I was modifying it so much. When I first heard about the ability to view the inside of humans with computed tomography, I built a viewer for MRI images on my computer… and I was hooked.

And so I oriented my education in that direction. After I landed my first job in a fMRI lab during my first year of college, MRI machines became literally everything to me. Some 15 years later, after completing my PhD at MIT, I became the head physicist at one of the best MRI research laboratories in the world, the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at the Massachusetts General Hospital. I got to solve problems that are meaningful to me and to take care of a family of 8 human MRI machines. This involves, besides QA, technical diagnosis of problems and pulse sequence developments. I also supported and collaborated with several hundred users of the center. My computer science side has not retired, so sometimes I find myself debugging Linux kernels, chasing down BIOS bugs, programming FPGAs, …on top of soldering custom equipment I developed.

My work interests focused on two areas. One is the optimization of clinical MRI procedures and to translate new MRI techniques into the clinic faster, which will ultimately allow for better diagnostic quality as well as increased patient comfort. MRI has been incredibly important for modern medicine and it’s a prominent tool in diagnostic medicine and biomedical research. But it’s also been expensive, time-consuming, with poor reproducibility and as such, only used in acute circumstances.

As a tool, MRI captures chemical and physical data, in addition to generating detailed spatial images. And importantly, it does not expose the human body to any radiation as with other more invasive imaging technologies. There is an opportunity to think about focusing this technology on health and not just on sickness. What is possible when we use it for preventive care? What will a whole body scanner of the future be like? In many aspects, today’s MRI machines are still confined by the basic principles set over 30 years ago. With modern computers and appropriate generalized algorithms and low-cost multi-modality sensors, many of these principles are no longer valid and the hardware can now be rethought. It was time for me to get a bigger garage.

When I met Jeff and the Q Bio team, I saw that they shared the same passion and conviction in making whole-body scanning part of the standard physical. They are also already up and running with a rapidly growing service that has helped individuals and their clinicians gain valuable insights about their health and their bodies. The team has already caught early diseases that have significantly changed the health outcomes of individuals — actually saving lives. Real-world impact and the potential to build and learn together with an interdisciplinary team. I decided this was where I wanted to build that garage.

At Q Bio, I’ll be leading a team to help the larger interdisciplinary Q Bio team to make cutting-edge morphological measurements over time a reality. Together with clinicians, software engineers, and bioinformatics analysts, we work on MRI physics, hardware debugging, sequence programming, advanced reconstruction, auto-segmentation, C++, Linux… and in between, enjoy some hands-on building and playing with magnets and novel sensors.

Our mission at Q Bio is to make it easy for individuals and clinicians to measure the most important changes in the body to help identify disease at its earliest and most treatable stages. If interested in this mission, please reach out. I’m hiring!