Dr. Achim Battmann interview
A transforming profession

Anyone entering the office of Dr. Achim Battmann is likely to find the surgical pathologist and department head at Nordwest Krankenhaus, a major hospital in Frankfurt, sitting at his desk, deeply focused on his microscope, excitedly talking about his work. What can’t be seen is a pedal at his feet: A homemade gadget that allows him to operate recording equipment without having to move his hands or eyes away from the task at hand.

Dr. Achim Battmann, head of pathology at the Nordwest Krankenhaus in Frankfurt, Germany, describes how NGS has changed the way oncology research is done and how the results impact tumor diagnostics.

Although Battmann uses a specially optimized microscope, this tool hasn’t evolved much from the versions used by past  generations of researchers. However, his profession has changed dramatically over the years, mostly because of the new tools available to study diseases. According to him, being a pathologist is one of the most exciting jobs in medicine today. Battmann is also aware of the similarity of his name to that of the masked superhero ‘Batman’, and it is a fitting coincidence since he works with technologies that save lives and pursues answers to help solve future pathological problems.

Time is precious in the daily life of a pathologist. As the number of samples rises, Battmann’s time to deliver pathological facts on cellular mutations is cut – today, efficiency is measured in seconds saved.

"It [the NGS GeneReader System] gets the most comprehensive set of data you can get."
Dr. Achim Battmann, Nordwest Krankenhaus, Frankfurt

In the service of life

Pathology is leaving the hospital basements, where it was traditionally located. This is true both metaphorically and literally, when Battmann heads upstairs to visit the genome sequencing laboratories at the Institute of Pathology and Cell Diagnostics at the Tumorzentrum, which he has been heading since 2014. The rooms are packed with machines. QIAGEN instruments like the Rotor-Gene, the PyroMark and, the latest addition, the new GeneReader NGS System, illustrate a new era in pathology. These tools allow Battmann the opportunity to study diseases with an efficiency that wasn’t possible just a few years ago.

The impact of this move towards molecular pathology has a huge potential to effect patients whose samples will be passing through Battmann’s lab in the future, most notably in the number of survivors. A few years ago he was only working on samples from deceased patients. Going forward, thanks to technologies such as liquid biopsy, he will be able to develop applications using samples from the living. Future routine practice for pathologists will include more regular meetings with colleagues of other disciplines to discuss the therapies offering the most promise to keep patients alive instead of just recording the cause of death, as was done so often in the past while secluded in the hospital basement.

Dr. Achim Battmann has been head of the Institute of Pathology and Cell Diagnostics at the Tumor Center at Nordwest Krankenhaus Frankfurt since 2014.

GeneReader NGS System
The world's first truly complete next-generation sequencing (NGS) workflow takes labs from raw samples all the way to actionable insights in record time to ensure results are ready when they are needed most.

Technical know-how

Nordwest Krankenhaus 

founded in 1963, is a well-known hospital that houses six institutes and specializes in eleven disciplines. Today, it serves as the teaching hospital of Goethe University Frankfurt. The oncology center is certified by the German Cancer Society.

The need for information on the molecular level is growing. Machines run sequencing processes 24/7. That’s one of the reasons Battmann picked the GeneReader NGS System in 2016, a technology which he believes has made its mark on cancer research, and will continue to do so for the next 15 to 20 years. Why? “Because it gets the most comprehensive set of data you can get,” says Battmann, referring to the report generated by the system via integrated QIAGEN Clinical Insight (QCI) Interpret bioinformatics software.

The data report includes information like the kind of mutation, and the potential pathogenic impact of the mutation on the disease. “And if you want to dive further into this, it seems like there is always a list of citations on everything.”

These vast amounts of data have given rise to another issue that is gaining importance. Battmann calls it “a controlled reproducible workflow”. One of the QIAGEN GeneReader NGS System’s most important benefits is its ability to bundle the whole process in a single workflow, because switching between systems can spur mistakes.

Besides the workflow, QIAGEN’s service swayed him: “The most advanced instrument is of no use if there is no service provided.” Battmann's experience with QIAGEN is: “They meet all our demands. We just order the things, and they come. If there’s a problem we call and it’s taken care of.”

“It doesn’t help anyone if you have the most advanced instrument and there is no service provided...”
Dr. Achim Battmann, Nordwest Krankenhaus, Frankfurt

Technical development is very rapid, says Battmann, so pathology also needs to leave its figurative basement to acquire new skills in using modern technologies. “You really need to be up-to-date, to use the capacities efficiently and to not fuel expectations the technologies can´t deliver in the end.”

Advancements and opportunities in the field of molecular pathology are clearly visible, but it may still be worth checking under Battmann’s desk for additional homemade pedals and other inventions.

Watch what others have to say

Dr. Hofman, professor of pathology at Nice Sophia Antipolis University, provides new insights into lung cancer.

Dr. Akkari, scientific director of cytogenetics and molecular pathology at Legacy Health, discusses her experiences as an early GeneReader NGS system user.

Dr. Bösl, head of molecular diagnostics at the Austrian Institute of Pathology in Feldkirch, speaks about his verification study and AIT Panel using the NGS system.

The GeneReader NGS System is for Research Use Only. Not for use in diagnostic procedures. 

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