U of S medical imaging research awarded $2.2 million

A team led by University of Saskatchewan (U of S) researcher Ron Geyer has been awarded $2.2 million by Western Economic Diversification Canada to develop and commercialize next-generation imaging agents to identify disease at its earliest onset.

By James Shewaga
Funding for the three-year project was announced today at the U of S College of Medicine by federal Minister of State Michelle Rempel.

Geyer, a professor of pathology in the College of Medicine, is harnessing advances in molecular biology and genomics. These have allowed researchers to identify how diseases disrupt the chemistry of the body's cells, creating molecular "fingerprints" on a cell's surface that can be identified with custom-designed molecules such as peptides and antibodies. These molecules can be tailored to detect various types of cancer by homing in on the disease's telltale markers. Geyer is leading research in this area as director of the Saskatchewan Therapeutic Antibody Resource (STAR).

When combined with radioactive isotopes, these molecular detectives become visible to medical imaging technology such as a PET-CT scanner.

Geyer and his colleagues will develop engineered antibodies and peptides to target molecular disease "fingerprints" to non-invasively identify disease tissues and find out where they are located in the body. The engineered antibodies will be attached to specialty medical isotopes produced at the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences at the U of S to produce new medical imaging agents. These tools will hasten early detection and diagnosis, and guide treatment of diseases.

The project team includes academic and research institutional partners from the U of S, Saskatoon Health Region, University of British Columbia, Washington University and the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation (operator of the cyclotron). Industry partners include Advanced Cyclotron Systems Inc. (radioisotope production), Interomex Inc. (peptide technology) and other partners currently in discussions.

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