A Look at A Few Hot New Approaches and News in the Research Imaging Market

Research Breakthrough

Advances in data storage and processing, as well as biomarker identification, has led to cutting-edge breakthroughs in clinical and research imaging technology.  Here’s a look at just a few of these stories.

Netherlands-based MILabs installed a VECTor5PET/SPECT/OI/CT system at the Chair of Pharmaceutical Radiochemistry at the Technical University Munich (TUM) Campus in Garching, Germany.

The institute has a well-known radiopharmaceutical research program made up of fundamental tracer development, innovative radiolabeling strategies, and the preclinical and clinical assessment of new tracers.  “We have been waiting for a long time for a system like the MILabs VECTor-OI-CT that offers the capabilities to support all aspects of our various research projects on multimodal theranostics tracer technology,” said HJ Wester, chair of Pharmaceutical Radiochemistry at the university, in a statement. “As evidenced by recent developments, such as PSMA-inhibitors, CXCR4-ligands, multimodal intraoperative probes, plus the renaissance of 99mTc-tracers or the new radiohybrid technology, modern tracer development has become more and more multidimensional.”

LexaGene Holdings, based in Beverly, Massachusetts, inked a deal with the Stanford University School of Medicine supplying targeted sequencing technology in combination with LexaGene’s microfluidic instrument. The sequencing technology was developed in the laboratory of Hanlee Ji, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford. LexaGene develops fully automated pathogen detection systems, specifically the open-access LX6. This system allows end-users to load their own real-time PCR assays into the instrument for customized pathogen detection. It can process six samples at a time and return results in about one hour.

Jack Regan, chief executive officer of LexaGene, said in a statement, “LexaGene’s technology was originally designed for pathogen detection across very large markets—I’m thrilled to report that we are working to expand our technology’s capability to include cancer diagnostics and Next Generation Sequencing.”

Late last year, Seattle-based Blaze Bioscience raised $16.1 million in a Series B-1 financing, bringing its total raise to $33 million. The company’s lead product candidate is BLZ-100, a genetically engineered peptide used to “paint” different types of tumor cells. The peptide is chemically linked to a fluorescent beacon, which is injected into tumor tissue in a surgical site. The surgeon is then able to visualize the illuminated tumor next to healthy tissue with the assistance of a fluorescent imaging camera. The company was founded in 2010 and spun out of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

BlackThorn Therapeutics spun out of Scripps Research Institute in 2013 and came out of stealth mode in 2016 with a $40 million Series A financing round. Most psychiatric disorders lack reliable biological markers. Diagnosis is typically performed based on symptoms, usually behavioral or subjective descriptions of moods and emotions. Clinical trial results are typically based on those observations, often with a doctor using a standardized questionnaire.

BlackThorn’s approach is to link objective assessment tools that quantify emotion, behavior and cognition with functional imaging technology. Its technology platform is dubbed INFORM.

In December 2017, BlackThorn presented data on its lead program, BTRX-246040, a first-in-class antagonist of the nociception receptor (NOPR) being evaluated in a Phase IIa trial in major depressive disorder (MDD), at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) Annual Meeting.

Relay Therapeutics, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, closed on a $63 million Series B financing in December 2017. The company focuses on developing therapeutics based on protein motion. For decades, the technology hasn’t been available or affordable to completely evaluate the movement of proteins, which in the body are in constant motion. Sanjiv Patel, Relay’s president and chief executive officer, told BioSpace in 2017, “Relay was formed based on that premise, visualizing protein motion, and understanding how they move, using technology with experimentation as well as computation to create consensus movies to design better drugs. So, we have a very powerful experimentation part using emerging techniques that allow us to visualize motion, such as X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy, which was the winner of this year’s Nobel for Chemistry. One of the other challenges is the amount of data that’s involved in visualizing motion. Earlier, it would have taken several years and been cost-prohibitive. But the cost has come down, so the experimental techniques and the increasing power of computation allows us for the first time to visualize proteins moving in the body and using that insight to design better drugs.”

These are just five examples of companies working on the very cutting edge of imaging technology.

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