A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

A biomedical engineering assistant professor at the University of Texas (Austin) has been awarded a $1.5 million National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute grant to conduct nanoparticle cancer research.

Grant recipient James Tunnell said the five-year project will include collaboration with other researchers from the university, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (Houston) and the University of California (UC; Irvine).

The project will focus on the development of molecular imaging technologies for the screening, diagnosis and therapy of cancer. Recent advancements in nanotechnologies have produced a class of optically active metal particles with highly desirable molecular and optical properties suitable for detection and treatment.

"We will design nanoparticles that can be injected into the bloodstream where they will seek out and attach themselves to cancer cells within the body," Tunnell says. "In this case, the particles themselves are identifying the cancer cells, and we can then image the nanoparticles in order to find the cancer."

Using weak levels of light, the particles act as imaging agents making it possible to locate cancer cells. Then, higher light levels can be used to heat the same particles, killing the cancer cells while leaving nearby healthy cells unharmed.

"Our goal is to detect and treat cancer at the cellular level and at its earliest stage when survival rates are highest," Tunnell says.

The collaborators on the project include the university's Brian Korgel, chemical engineering professor, and Pengyu Ren, biomedical engineering assistant professor; M.D. Anderson's Sunil Krishnan and UC's Anthony Durkin and David Cuccia.

In other grants and contracts news:

• Diagnostic Hybrids (Athens, Ohio) has received funding through the Biomedical Research Commercialization Program (BRCP; Columbus, Ohio) to develop more sensitive and affordable assays for the monitoring of patients infected with HIV and/or Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and to produce vaccines against influenza virus. The BRCP is part of the Third Frontier Project, a push by Ohio lawmakers to bring biotechnology and related businesses into the state of Ohio.

The project and award bring together researchers to commercialize systems that monitor drug resistance in HIV, HCV, and Influenza infections and will aid in developing treatments and vaccines for these diseases.

The researchers are using a yeast-based cloning technology first developed at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland) to investigate drug resistance and vaccine development for HIV, HCV, and influenza.

• Luminetx (Memphis) reported that it has signed a three-year supplier contract with Novation (Irving, Texas), a group purchasing organization.

Novation is the healthcare contracting services company of VHA, University Health System Consortium (Oak Brook, Illinois) and Provista (Irving, Texas). Through the deal, the company's 14,500-plus member base will have access to custom Novation group purchasing discounts as they relate to the VeinViewer, Luminetx's vascular imaging system that allows healthcare professionals to clearly see accessible vasculature (or lack thereof) in real time.

• GE Healthcare (Chalfont St. Giles, England) is working with medical leaders in the Olympic Movement to advance the use of medical imaging technologies to provide insight into athlete health, as well as benefits for the general public. The company will supply a broad array of medical technologies, including MRI, ultrasound and ECG to the Olympic Village General Hospital. In addition, three National Olympic Committees, including China, U.S. and Spain, and two Sports Federations will use GE Healthcare's compact ultrasound technology.