Johns Hopkins Astrophysicist Receives 2021 Life Sciences Prize for New Cancer Mapping Technology


Johns Hopkins astrophysicist Alexander Szalay, Ph.D., and Kimmel Cancer Center pathologist Janis Taube, MD, M.Sc., received a 2021 Life Sciences Award for AstroPath at this Falling Walls Science Summit. year, an international event honoring research breakthroughs from around the world.

Johns Hopkins’ submission titled “Breaking the Wall to Map Cancer Using Multispectral Microscopy” was selected from hundreds of entries for the design of the AstroPath platform. AstroPath is a comprehensive new platform for imaging and mapping microscopic sections of tumors to identify and validate predictive biomarkers to guide precision cancer immunotherapies.

It’s a convergence of scientific technology, big data and astronomy – aimed at curing cancer. “

Alexander Szalay, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Computer Science, and Director of the Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science at Johns Hopkins University

“Biomarkers are essential for understanding the individual signatures of cancer. Using this spatial mapping approach, we can better determine which patients will or will not respond to cancer therapy. Our long-term goal is to match individual patients with personalized therapies, ”says Taube, professor of dermatology and director of the division of dermatopathology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The basis of the AstroPath platform is the Sloan Digital Sky Survey database, a 3D digital map of the universe designed by Szalay. “In astronomy we often ask, What is the probability that the galaxies are close to each other? We apply the same approach to cancer – by examining the spatial relationships in the tumor microenvironment. It’s the same problem on a very different scale, ”he says.

Just as the Sloan Survey maps the cosmos on an astronomical scale, AstroPath maps tumor cells on a microscopic scale.

“Who would have thought that the techniques of astronomy would end up saving lives? Szalay concludes.

AstroPath was developed with support from the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research; the Melanoma Research Alliance; Johns Hopkins Bloomberg ~ Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy; the Harry J. Lloyd Charitable Trust; the Emerson Collective; Moving for melanoma from Delaware; the Barney Family Foundation; the Laverna Hahn Charitable Trust; Bristol Myers Squibb; Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center Core Grant P30 CA006973; National Cancer Institute R01 CA142779; and technology from Akoya Biosciences.

The Falling Walls conference is held annually in Berlin, Germany, and is named after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.


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