Preparing Molecular Imaging's Future
Diagnostic imaging systems such as CT/PET and MR/PET, which bring together in vivo anatomical and functional information in the same device or at the same workstation, offer a real opportunity for expanding the clinical utility of molecular imaging. But to drive adoption of these new combination systems will require data showing that their use changes therapeutic decision-making. For the most part, these data are at least several years away, with most of the work today in cancer, where in vivo imaging has been shown to better evaluate tumor type, guide radiation therapy, and change chemotherapy management. In the meantime, suppliers of imaging equipment to hospitals and research institutions are collaborating with academics and companies that are developing new radiotracers and other molecular probes. Such moves are not typical for these organizations, which, like IVD companies, traditionally have placed their bets on selling products into mature markets, rather than innovative R&D-oriented projects.
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The adoption of new in vivo molecular imaging agents may eventually follow the current path of in vitro diagnostics, which for some products is shifting from a cost-effectiveness standard for reimbursement toward an evidence-based. But the companies most likely to support the clinical trials that would establish such benefits are only slowly integrating the development of molecular agents into their core businesses. IVD - an area of acquisition interest for these companies -may be the force that transforms them into more biologically minded and innovation-driven entities, and in so doing it may bolster the development of molecular imaging agents.
Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and Cornell University have taken the first steps toward moving a silica-based nanoparticle platform invented at Cornell into use in cancer imaging. Using optical imaging and PET, they showed that encapsulating a dye in a biocompatible nanoscale matrix enhanced imaging capabilities while maintaining efficient clearance through the urine.
GE Medical's pending $9.5 billion acquisition of Amersham PLC, while cast in terms of the company's commitment to accelerate progress in personalized medicine, is fundamentally a hard-headed numbers play aimed at maintaining momentum of GE's gargantuan $10 billion medical systems business unit. GE needs healthy businesses oriented towards growing markets to maintain its momentum. And Amersham, with its stable, predictable contrast agent and protein separations businesses fits well into the portfolio. Meanwhile, the personalized medicine play holds mid-to-long term promise.