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Principal Investigator Oliver Bruns
SWIR Imaging


Oliver Bruns' research is dedicated to the development of excellent techniques for biomedical imaging. The advancement of new targeted contrast agents and novel imaging modalities will pave the way for personalized therapy and high precision treatments in the near future. Imaging in the short-wave infrared region (SWIR) is a new technology for biomedical applications. It provides several advantages over the visible and near-infrared regions: general lack of autofluorescence, low light absorption by blood and tissue, and reduced scattering. In this wavelength range tissues become translucent. Recent progress in detection technology and the development of probes demonstrated that, in principal, SWIR imaging enables applications which were previously not feasible with any other technique. These advantages will enable new capabilities in preclinical imaging. Most SWIR imaging setups so far are used for proof of principal demonstrations only. 

Our aims

To utilize the full potential, the first goal is developing novel SWIR imaging setups, which enable high-speed intravital imaging, ultra-sensitive whole animal imaging and fluorescence molecular tomography in mice in the SWIR.

The second goal of this project is to develop novel bright and targeted SWIR probes for preclinical research in diabetes and oncology.



Next generation in vivo optical imaging with novel short-wave infrared emitting probes

- funded by the DFG through the Emmy Noether Program

Collaborative Projects

  • Clinical SWIR Imaging – in collaboration with Prof. Tulio Valdez / Stanford University
  • Novel SWIR Probes – in collaboration with Prof. Ellen Sletten / UCLA and Prof. Martin Schnermann / NIH
  • Novel SWIR QDs Probes – in collaboration with Prof. Moungi Bawendi / MIT
  • Novel SWIR Imaging Setups – in collaboration with Prof. Christopher Rowlands / Imperial College London

Dr. Oliver Bruns

Principal Investigator, SWIR Imaging

Vision: short-wave infrared region (SWIR) is the future of optical imaging

My vision is that in 10 years, SWIR imaging is going to be the gold standard for preclinical and clinical imaging. Every research center and every major clinic will have SWIR detection systems and use novel contrast agents like the ones which I plan to develop with my team and collaborators. This new generation of optical imaging techniques will enable preclinical contact-free imaging in awake and behaving mice and in the future clinical imaging with single cell sensitivity and penetration depth up to centimeters.


Dr. Oliver Bruns

Google Scholar

Positions and Career

2018 - present
Principal Investigator Helmholtz Pioneer Campus,  Helmholtz Zentrum München   

2015 - 2017
Research Scientist (Senior Scientist), Department of Chemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

2011 - 2015
Postdoctoral Associate in the group of Prof. Moungi Bawendi at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

2009 - 2011
Senior Scientist at Heinrich-Pette-Institute Hamburg/Germany


PhD in Biochemistry, University Medical Center and Institute of Physical Chemistry, University of Hamburg (Germany), Supervisors: Prof. Ulrike Beisiegel and Prof. Horst Weller

Diploma in Biochemistry / Molecular Biology, University of Hamburg (Germany)


Emmy Noether Group leader DFG

EMBO Long-Term Fellowship 

DAAD fellowship (declined in favour of EMBO Long-term Fellowship)

‘Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes’ Fellowship

Travel grant for the World Molecular Imaging Congress

EMBL Advanced Training Centre Fellowship (Travel grant) and Dr. Wilhelmy-GSO-Fellowship (Travel grant)

SPOT award by MIT School of Science and Travel grant by MIT PDA

Karl-Heinz Hölzer Award for Interdisciplinary Medical Research (PhD-Thesis)

Young Investigator Award, 77th European Atherosclerosis Congress, 2008, Istanbul, Turkey

Young Investigator Award, 30th annual Meeting of European Lipoprotein Club, Tutzing, Germany

Award for the best diploma thesis in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology

Spokesman of the Student Committee of the 'GBM' (German Biochemical Society)

 Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


DFG – Emmy Noether Program


Deputy Group Leader

Dr. Thomas Bischof



Dr. Mara Saccomano


PhD Students

Bernardo Arús


Jakob Lingg



Shyam Ramakrishnan

Lab Manager

Martin Warmer


Visiting Scientist

Emily Cosco

Chemistry Graduate Student visiting from the Group of Ellen Sletten at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA. Her research focuses on developing organic fluorophores for SWIR imaging.  


Selected Publications

Absorption by water increases fluorescence image contrast of biological tissue in the shortwave infrared.

Carr JA, Aellen M, Franke D, So PTC, Bruns OT, Bawendi MG.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Sep 11;115(37):9080-9085. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1803210115.

More Details

Shortwave infrared fluorescence imaging with the clinically approved near-infrared dye indocyanine green.

Carr JA, Franke D, Caram JR, Perkinson CF, Saif M, Askoxylakis V, Datta M, Fukumura D, Jain RK, Bawendi MG, Bruns OT.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Apr 24;115(17):4465-4470. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1718917115.

More Details

Initial findings of shortwave infrared otoscopy in a pediatric population.

Valdez TA, Carr JA, Kavanagh KR, Schwartz M, Blake D, Bruns O, Bawendi M.
Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2018 Nov;114:15-19. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2018.08.024.

More Details

Brown adipose tissue thermogenic adaptation requires Nrf1-mediated proteasomal activity.

Bartelt A, Widenmaier SB, Schlein C, Johann K, Goncalves RLS, Eguchi K, Fischer AW, Parlakgül G, Snyder NA, Nguyen TB, Bruns OT, Franke D, Bawendi MG, Lynes MD, Leiria LO, Tseng YH, Inouye KE, Arruda AP, Hotamisligil GS.
Nat Med. 2018 Mar;24(3):292-303. doi: 10.1038/nm.4481.

More Details

Next-generation in vivo optical imaging with short-wave infrared quantum dots.

Bruns OT, Bischof TS, Harris DK, Franke D, Shi Y, Riedemann L, Bartelt A, Jaworski FB, Carr JA, Rowlands CJ, Wilson MWB, Chen O, Wei H, Hwang GW, Montana DM, Coropceanu I, Achorn OB, Kloepper J, Heeren J, So PTC, Fukumura D, Jensen KF, Jain RK, Bawendi MG.
Nat Biomed Eng. 2017;1. pii: 0056. doi: 10.1038/s41551-017-0056.


More Details

Real time magnetic resonance imaging and quantification of lipoprotein metabolism in vivo using nanocrystals.

Bruns OT, Ittrich H, Peldschus K, Kaul MG, Tromsdorf UI, Lauterwasser J, Nikolic MS, Mollwitz B, Merkel M, Bigall NC, Sapra S, Reimer R, Hohenberg H, Weller H, Eychmüller A, Adam G, Beisiegel U, Heeren J.
Nat Nanotechnol. 2009 Mar;4(3):193-201. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2008.405.


More Details

Brown adipose tissue activity controls triglyceride clearance.

Bartelt A, Bruns OT, Reimer R, Hohenberg H, Ittrich H, Peldschus K, Kaul MG, Tromsdorf UI, Weller H, Waurisch C, Eychmüller A, Gordts PL, Rinninger F, Bruegelmann K, Freund B, Nielsen P, Merkel M, Heeren J.
Nat Med. 2011 Feb;17(2):200-5. doi: 10.1038/nm.2297.


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Contact us

HPC contact Cai



Helmholtz Pioneer Campus
Helmholtz Zentrum München
Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt (GmbH)

Ingolstädter Landstr. 1
85764 Neuherberg