October 19, 2011 — University of California Davis (UC Davis) Health System, Petnet Solutions Inc. and Northern California PET Imaging Center (NCPIC) announced a partnership to establish a radiochemistry research and training facility on the university’s Sacramento campus. The facility will also produce radiopharmaceutical products used in positron emission tomography (PET) scans. Petnet Solutions is a wholly owned subsidiary of Siemens Medical Solutions USA Inc.
“This exciting partnership brings together under one roof the basic science, clinical and commercialization arms of molecular imaging,” said Claire Pomeroy, UC Davis vice chancellor for human health sciences and dean of UC Davis School of Medicine. “It positions UC Davis more competitively for federal grants and it benefits the local economy by expanding business opportunities in medical technology.”
Under the terms of the partnership, 12,000 square feet of available space will be used to house state-of-the-art equipment and research laboratories. Petnet plans to set up manufacturing and distribution operations in part of the space. NCPIC anticipates creating a scale-up laboratory for biomarker production. UC Davis will establish laboratories for research scientists and trainees.
The multimillion-dollar project will include installation of two medical cyclotrons for the production of high-demand PET radioisotopes now utilized in clinical applications around the world. The most commonly used PET radioisotopes have a short radioactive half-life and are often usable for only a few minutes to hours; for this reason, close proximity to the new manufacturing and distribution facility benefits UC Davis’ research activities and clinical care needs throughout the Sacramento region.
Julie Sutcliffe, associate professor in the departments of biomedical engineering and hematology and oncology at UC Davis, will oversee the new research and training program; it is aimed at developing specialized molecular imaging agents to target diseases related to oncology, neurology and cardiology. The laboratory will be an important training site for scientists from around the country interested in creating new compounds and technologies to advance the field of molecular imaging.
“One of our key goals is to bring much greater precision to the diagnosis and treatment of disease,” said Sutcliffe, who specializes in cancer imaging research and serves as director of radiochemistry for the UC Davis Center for Molecular and Genomic Imaging. “Having a cutting-edge commercial production facility right on the other side of the wall from our research laboratory allows immediate access to the infrastructure and tools we need to advance patient care and health, and it will provide unique opportunities to commercialize and distribute novel compounds we discover or develop.”
Sutcliffe and her team often work with the short-lived radioactive imaging agents —called “radiotracers” — that are used in PET scans to obtain high-contrast images of diseased tissues. The tracers, for example, make cancerous tissues glow in the scanner’s computer-generated, 3-D images.
“PET scans are highly informative, but there is a critical need for even more specific visualization of biological processes,” said Sutcliffe, whose research focuses on the development and screening of targeted molecular imaging agents for in vivo imaging with PET. “This collaboration will help us develop innovative compounds and techniques that can be moved rapidly from the laboratory bench to a patient’s bedside, enabling us to truly realize PET’s full potential.”
As part of the agreement, Petnet will provide new imaging biomarkers for clinical trials and create the potential for a pipeline for commercialization of imaging biomarkers developed by UC Davis scientists. Its goal is to advance a new paradigm for molecular imaging through research and collaboration with top universities and teaching hospitals around the country.
The Northern California PET Imaging Center plans to use isotopes and radiopharmaceuticals from the new facility for patient diagnostics and clinical trials at its existing Sacramento clinic. The center was originally established as a joint effort between Sutter Health Sacramento and CHW Healthcare, Sacramento,
In addition to research and clinical care benefits, the partnership fits well with the economic development vision of the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance and its medical technology program, MedStart.
For more information: www.norcalscans.org