Medical scanners could monitor processes in body over weeks

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A Belgium company, Pepric, is aiming to develop medical scanners capable of monitoring processes in the body over several days or weeks.

The company is hoping to develop and commercialise ex vivo and in vivo analytical instruments to pre-clinical and clinical molecular imaging centres in academic institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals.

Stephanie Teughels, chief executive officer of Pepric, told The Engineer: ’We are aiming to develop instrumentation based on a magnetic resonant technique for direct and quantitative detection of magnetic nanoparticles.

’With [magnetic resonance imaging] anatomical images are obtained with excellent spatial resolution. When cells or molecules are magnetically labelled, one can distinguish where the observed cells or molecules are situated in the animal or human body.’

Quantification of the amount of cells or biomolecules has remained problematic up until now.

’Quantification is crucial when evaluating the therapy or drug efficacy in the pre-clinical phase of the developments in order to reduce risks and costs that come along when phase III trials are initiated,’ said Teughels. ’For example, when assessing the efficacy of a stem-cell therapy, it can take weeks before sufficient cells migrate to the target site.

’When the technology is developed, it could also be used to determine the biodistribution of newly developed contrast agents, or therapy monitoring with these contrast agents coated with drugs,’ said Teughels.

The first ex vivo analysis tool is installed at a pre-clinical research lab and will be commercialised this year for pre-clinical molecular imaging centres.

Pepric has been developing the technology since 2009 and is now ready to commercialise it following a €1.4m (£1.2m) capital round investment.

The capital round was financed with means from the Spin-Off Financing Instrument being created to support spin-offs from the four Flemish Strategic Research Centres (IBBT, imec, VIB and VITO).