Life Science and Pharmaceutical Industry,  Medical Device and Healthcare

FreeSurfer supports collaborative research into neurological diseases

In only four months, Zühlke and the FreeSurfer team delivered a browser-based viewer for brain MRIs.

Neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer's, pose a formidable challenge, impacting millions worldwide with their debilitating effects. The intricate nature of the human brain complicates the battle against these conditions, underscoring the critical need for advanced research tools.

The FreeSurfer software suite is a leading set of tools used to view and analyse magnetic resonance (MR) brain scans that are used extensively for research into neurological diseases. By simplifying the analysis of these scans, FreeSurfer accelerates the quest for understanding and treating neurological diseases. With tools like this, the scientific community moves closer to unlocking the mysteries of the brain, offering hope for millions affected by neurological disorders.

The challenge

A key component of the FreeSurfer Suite is FreeView. Being an on-prem solution it is not simple to install and access for non-technical users which hampers collaboration across organisations. The FreeSurfer team wanted to solve this problem and facilitate researcher access with a web-based extension that offers the same functionalities but can be used in a browser.

The solution

First, we conducted user-centred research on the key user groups. The results shaped the initial product backlog for 'FreeBrowse’, which was outlined while the rest of the team was setting up the development environment. Using agile methodology and regular feedback from stakeholders, the team then developed a proof of concept (PoC) within four months. In parallel, our team collaborated with the FreeSurfer team to conduct fundamental user research to shape the long-term product roadmap.


The results

Our team delivered a FreeBrowse PoC, including documentation and user manuals on time and within budget. The software offered the most important functions from FreeView, including the ability to:

upload and view local files

create and navigate waypoints

edit voxels

collaborate with others by sharing and commenting

integrate with Jupyter Notebook

Beyond the PoC, an 18-month product roadmap and a UX concept was developed based on four key use cases that were previously identified and prioritised. This enabled the FreeSurfer team to seek the next round of funding for this important work.

The browser-based viewer for brain MRIs represents a significant leap forward, offering researchers unparalleled access to vital data.

Douglas Greve, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Radiology, Harvard Medical School
' Zühlke expertly bridged our in-house capability gaps, particularly in front-end development and UX, not only delivering the PoC within time and budget but also collaboratively crafting our future roadmap. '
Douglas Greve, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Radiology, Harvard Medical School

FreeSurfer is referenced in over 45,000 neuro-scientific articles* 

*45,700 results on Google Scholar as of February 2024

Jürgen Pronebner

Regional Managing Director Health Industry, EMEA & Partner
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