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2010-10-05: Conway researcher recognised for biomarker validation research

Dr. Elton Rexhepaj received the European Society of Toxicologic Pathology (ESTP) thesis award at a meeting in Budapest, Hungary on September 30th 2010.

This prestigious prize, sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH & Co. KG, is offered every second year for a thesis in toxicological pathology.

Entitled ‘Quantitative Analysis Using Object and Spatial Level Pattern Recognition in Histopathology Images for Detection and Characterisation of Cancer with Application in Biomarker Validation’, Rexhepaj’s doctoral thesis describes an automated, image analysis approach for clinical pathologists and biomedical researchers in histopathology laboratories to automate immunohistochemistry (IHC) annotation and facilitate the translation of biomarker discovery to clinical implementation.

Digital microscopy is more frequently being used to document and analyse slides in modern research laboratories. It has numerous advantages over manual interpretation, which is a tedious, time consuming, subjective process that allows only a limited statistical confidence to be assigned due to inherent intra- and inter-observer variability.

Dr. Elton Rexhepaj, together with Conway Fellow, Prof. William Gallagher and clinician-scientist, Dr. Donal Brennan of the Cancer Biology and Therapeutics Laboratory at UCD Conway Institute ( created a novel, proprietary image analysis toolkit for the assessment of IHC-based markers.

This technology, termed IHC-MARK, is currently in beta-testing phase and provides a non-supervised approach to the discrimination of biomarker protein expression at the subcellular level. The applicability of IHC-MARK in oncology has been demonstrated across multiple marker and tumour types, including breast, colorectal, bladder and ovarian cancer.

The research, which was primarily funded by the Health Research Board of Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the European Commission, is also a key basis of a new UCD spin-out company, OncoMark Limited (

Dr. Rexhepaj has now joined OncoMark Limited as a senior imaging scientist to further progress the commercialisation aspects of IHC-MARKand complementary image analysis approaches in histopathology.

Centred on the development and application of biomarker panels, particularly in the areas of oncology and drug development, OncoMark Ltd received €2.2 million funding from the European Union Framework Programme 7 to progress three large-scale oncology biomarker projects.