5 minutes with Marcel Gehrung, CEO and Co-Founder, Cyted - European Medical Journal

5 minutes with Marcel Gehrung, CEO and Co-Founder, Cyted

3 Mins
EMJ GOLD
Marcel Gehrung, CEO and Co-Founder, Cyted, an early cancer diagnostics company, talks to Jade Williams about the greatest challenges facing his company and his love for DIY
Words by Jade Williams

What led you to join the health technology industry?

I didn’t really start out in healthcare. I started off in a very, very general [role] within the sciences, then went into a very physics-oriented field, then into medical physics and later medical imaging – which is pretty close to healthcare.

Then, I went to Cambridge to do a PhD in how to apply machine learning and artificial intelligence to different types of medical imaging data. It was during this time that I met Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, who was working on early detection of cancer, and as a result, my involvement in healthcare went on to extend far beyond an academic venture.

There’s always a bit of uncertainty when you do something like this, but in hindsight I’m very happy about my trajectory. It has given me a very good, broad scientific understanding that has slowly narrowed down into a niche that Cyted works in today.

Take us through the day to day of your current work

I don’t think there’s any longer than two or three months where my day-to-day looks the same. There are still pockets of the business where I’m very involved and get buried in the technological aspects, but I’ve been spending a lot of time in external meetings recently.

I usually base my day around calls with different time zones, so I’ll be on the phone with teams in China in the morning, working against the clock, and I like to close the day with the US. We also do a lot of NHS collaborations, which come with a fair amount of stakeholder management. In German, we would describe this as ‘keeping the hot potato in the air’.

There’s also a lot of people-related matters to address now that the company has grown, but there is still a part of my heart that beats for the academic and scientific questions I get asked by my teams. When I am asked an interesting question from this perspective, it really draws me in, which can be really rewarding for my intrinsic sweet spot.

What is the greatest challenge facing your company today, and how are you approaching it?

As a company working in the early cancer diagnostics space, there’s a number of different challenges. Some of them are system-related, such as communicating with stakeholders in healthcare systems. Early cancer detection is a young field in comparison to many other areas of healthcare, so building awareness that preventing disease is better than letting it happen can prove to be quite a task.

Also, in a field where you’re trying to create a market, there are so many fronts you have to fight on at the same time. Awareness is one thing: making people aware that something exists that can benefit the course of their lives or improve the way they manage their personal health. But it all boils down to various people in various parts of the system understanding the relevance or importance of why you are working towards this change.

A lot of progress has been made in early cancer diagnostics over the last 20 years, but there’s so much more work to be done. If you just look at simple public health data, such as one in two people get cancer and less than 50% of that cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, it paints a very shocking picture. We are working hard to change this.

Do you have any passion projects outside of your daily role?

So, I would usually say aquascaping – does that ring any bells? It’s essentially building landscapes in aquariums but think of it in a more sophisticated way than how I’m describing! Google it, it’s absolutely spectacular what people are doing in that space.

That being said, my partner and I moved last year, and since then, unfortunately, I’ve abandoned that passion project because I’ve had no time. Instead, I’ve taken up quite a few DIY projects. I absolutely love anything where I can take something apart and put it back together again. In my immediate vicinity, there is at least three ongoing DIY projects that I’m trying to keep myself entertained with.

We’ve actually got quite a few DIY initiatives going as a company as well, such as traffic lights that show the status of some of our projects. I am very often the culprit behind these, it’s entertaining for [my staff] and for me too.

What is your favourite childhood memory?

So, it’s a fascinating story. I was actually born with a congenital heart defect and had fairly invasive surgery when I was 15 or 16. As a result of that, I have something called retrograde amnesia, and I can barely remember a lot of the things that happened before that surgery. Up until the age of 14, I only really have fragments here and there.

I don’t want to put a downer on things, I could come up with something like eating ice cream at the beach in Italy, but I wouldn’t be telling the truth. I’m a big ambassador of not separating your personal and work personas because there’s no difference to the human being behind them, you know?

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