SynchroPET gets an A in U of Buffalo testing

Marc Alessi: Busy innovator, seven days a week, 27 hours a day.

Stony Brook-based SynchroPET has taken another step toward unprecedented, simultaneous PET/MRI imaging.

By placing a PET camera into the bore of an existing MRI machine – that’s the chamber where the patient slides in – SynchroPET achieved “another significant milestone on its quest to disrupt the medical imaging industry,” the company said in a statement.

PET systems track gamma rays emitted by tiny injected tracers, then use computers to construct 3D images of the body’s systems. MRIs and CAT scans can provide anatomical information and locate tumors, but a PET scan “can tell you if there’s cancer in your body long before a tumor is present,” according to SynchroPET founder Marc Alessi.

The experiment took place recently at the Translational Imaging Center inside the University of Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, SynchroPET’s second beta site. Last fall, the circa-2014 startup sited its first scanner at Stony Brook Medicine’s animal research division, where researchers are analyzing its performance.

The Buffalo work, directed by assistant neurology professor Ferdinand Schweser, marks “the first time that an existing preclinical MRI device has been retrofitted with a PET camera for the simultaneous acquisition of data,” according to Alessi.

“A number of folks in the industry and research have been anxiously waiting for us to get to this point,” Alessi said. “There is an enormous amount of interest for our commercial product, which will be released this fall.”

First, Schweser and his fellow UB researchers will present a paper reporting their initial results at a conference later this month in Germany, an annual event that unites hundreds of MRI and PET experts and other scientists from around the world.

Schweser said his team has been “very pleased with our partnership with SynchroPET,” adding UB “has been very supportive in making a number of important commitments to facilitate our work with this cutting-edge technology.”

SynchroPET licensed four different technologies from Brookhaven National Laboratory to create its PET/MRI insert: a miniature scanner that can image the entire brain of fully conscious lab rats, a small-animal PET insert for MRI machines, a PET scanner that’s a fraction of the size of the typical room-sized PET machine and a dual-imaging MRI-PET scanner that will reduce false-positive findings in breast screenings, according to Alessi.

The company is now producing the smallest and lightest PET devices in the world, which can be used either as PET/MRI Inserts or as stand-alone PET devices.

Combined, the disparate technologies strengthen each other’s clinical value, he added, and his lead Buffalo researcher agreed.

“Being able to pair the functional and molecular capabilities of PET with the excellent anatomical soft tissue contrast of MRI will unlock new preclinical research directions for improving diagnostics and treatments of a multitude of diseases,” Schweser said.

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