Published : Thursday, August 30, 2018 | 5:12 AM
A Pasadena technology startup has launched a novel radiolabeling platform that aims to unlock the full power of positron emission tomography (PET), a functional imaging technique in nuclear medicine that is used to observe metabolic processes in the body as an aid to the diagnosis of disease.
Medical practitioners use PET, invented and developed in the 1970s, by introducing tracer isotopes into the body of a patient and then taking three-dimensional images of the tracer through a scanner. The system is used to explore cancer metastasis as the most common procedure, and can also be used to investigate and diagnose certain types of dementia.
PET is one of many types of what is commonly known as CT – for computed tomography – scanning which in general makes use of computer-processed combinations of many –X-ray measurements combined to produce images of specific areas of a scanned object, or human organs in medicine use.
The Pasadena company, Fuzionaire Dx, introduced its radiolabeling platform that’s based on what it calls a breakthrough discovery by Anton Toutov, Fuzionaire Dx’s co-founder and chief scientific officer, during his PhD studies at Caltech under Nobel Laureate Robert Grubbs, creating a new branch of catalysis based on Earth-abundant alkali metals like potassium and sodium.
“What we have is a radiolabeling platform that can radiolabel any ligand at record rates of speed,” Fuzionaire Dx CEO Nick Slavin told medical and diagnostic technology publisher MD + DI.
In biochemistry and pharmacology, a lidang is a substance that forms a complex with a biomolecule to serve a biological purpose.
Fuzionair Dx’s platform is not only the first platform that can radiolabel any ligand, but is also the fastest, which matters a lot because radioisotopes used in PET have a very short life. Fluorine-18, the most commonly used radioactive isotope in PET, has a half-life of just 109.8 minutes.
“With our radiolabeling platform, labeling happens seemingly instantaneously, in seconds, and that shaves a lot of time off the current state of the art, which is 20 minutes on up to sometimes hours,” Slavin said. “We can unlock the potential of PET for disease diagnosis, but also as a tool for drug discovery.”
Fuzionaire Dx said the discovery now makes it possible to initiate chemical processes at ambient temperatures and pressures without using precious metals, lowering cost, improving efficiency, and unlocking previously unthinkable chemical reactions. Until now, producing a catalytic reaction has required either the use of rare, expensive metals or high temperature and pressures.
With Fuzionaire Dx’s new method, molecular imaging techniques like PET will be able to image a much broader range of biological targets and help diagnose a greater breadth of diseases. The method also reduces the amount of off-target imaging and produces images that are more specific and clearer, the company said.
The new procedure also will not require new machines or equipment, the company added.
“It fits perfectly into the existing manufacturing paradigm, no new equipment is needed, it goes along the steps already taken to manufacture PET probes, some steps are actually cut out, but it just does everything a lot faster,” Slavin said. “That’s exciting because I think it means we can become the go-to radiolabeling platform for disease diagnosis and drug discovery pretty quickly.”
Michael Phelps, the original inventor of PET, and now professor and chair of the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at UCLA, is advising Fuzionaire Dx in the project. Other key advisors are Jason Lewis, former president of the World Molecular Imaging Society, and Kristin Swanson, a mathematical oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, says the MD+DI report.