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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

New partnership to create research and commercial manufacturing hub at UC Davis in Sacramento

Posted Oct. 19, 2011

Researchers © UC Regents
A new partnership will expand UC Davis' positron emission tomography program, which uses short-lived radioisotopes  and high-contrast imaging to diagnose and track disease.

UC Davis Health System, PETNET Solutions (a wholly owned subsidiary of Siemens Medical Solutions USA) and Northern California PET Imaging Center (NCPIC) have announced that they will partner to establish a facility on the university's Sacramento campus for research and training in radiochemistry and for the commercial production of radiopharmaceutical products used in positron emission tomography (PET) scans — an imaging technique that provides molecular information important for diagnosing disease and conducting clinical research.

"This exciting partnership brings together under one roof the basic science, clinical and commercialization arms of molecular imaging," said Claire Pomeroy, UC Davis vice chancellor for human health sciences and dean of UC Davis School of Medicine. "It positions UC Davis more competitively for federal grants and it benefits the local economy by expanding business opportunities in medical technology."

Industry and academia working together to improve care

Under the terms of the partnership, 12,000 square feet of available space will be used to house state-of-the-art equipment and research laboratories, enabling industry and academia to work side-by-side to advance clinical care. PETNET Solutions, which operates the world's largest network of FDA-registered establishments for the production and distribution of PET radiopharmaceuticals, plans to set up manufacturing and distribution operations in part of the space. NCPIC, which became the first freestanding PET imaging center in the nation when it opened in 1992, anticipates creating a scale-up laboratory for biomarker production. UC Davis will establish laboratories for research scientists and trainees.

The multimillion-dollar project will include the installation of two medical cyclotrons for the production of high-demand PET radioisotopes now utilized in clinical applications around the world. Because the most commonly used PET radioisotopes have a short radioactive half-life and are often usable for only a few minutes to hours, close proximity to the new manufacturing and distribution facility benefits UC Davis' research activities and clinical-care needs throughout the Sacramento region.

Julie Sutcliffe, associate professor in the departments of biomedical engineering and hematology and oncology at UC Davis, will oversee the new research and training program, which is aimed at developing specialized molecular imaging agents used to target diseases related to oncology, neurology and cardiology. The laboratory will be an important training site for scientists from around the country who are interested in creating new compounds and technologies to advance the field of molecular imaging.

Claire Pomeroy © UC Regents"This exciting partnership brings together under one roof the basic science, clinical and commercialization arms of molecular imaging."
— Claire Pomeroy

"One of our key goals is to bring much greater precision to the diagnosis and treatment of disease," said Sutcliffe, who specializes in cancer imaging research and serves as director of radiochemistry for the UC Davis Center for Molecular and Genomic Imaging. "Having a cutting-edge commercial production facility right on the other side of the wall from our research laboratory allows immediate access to the infrastructure and tools we need to advance patient care and health, and it will provide unique opportunities to commercialize and distribute novel compounds we discover or develop."

Sutcliffe and her team often work with the short-lived radioactive imaging agents — called "radiotracers" — that are used in PET scans to obtain high-contrast images of diseased tissues. The tracers, for example, make cancerous tissues glow in the scanner's computer-generated, 3-D images.

"PET scans are highly informative, but there is a critical need for even more specific visualization of biological processes," said Sutcliffe, whose research focuses on the development and screening of targeted molecular imaging agents for in vivo imaging with PET. "This collaboration will help us develop innovative compounds and techniques that can be moved rapidly from the laboratory bench to a patient's bedside, enabling us to truly realize PET's full potential."

Fully realizing the power of molecular imaging

As part of the partnership agreement, PETNET Solutions will provide new imaging biomarkers for clinical trials, as well as create the potential for a pipeline for commercialization of imaging biomarkers developed by UC Davis scientists, thus benefiting researchers and clinicians worldwide. A goal of PETNET Solutions is to advance a new paradigm for molecular imaging through research and collaboration with top universities and teaching hospitals around the country, and this latest venture offers distinct advantages.

"PETNET Solutions is proud to participate in this partnership with UC Davis and the Northern California PET Imaging Center," said Ian Turner, chief executive officer at PETNET Solutions. "This unique collaboration represents the true integration of commercial, clinical and research entities, and will dramatically advance the use of specialized imaging biomarkers by drawing on the combined experience of some of the most respected names in the radiopharmaceutical field."

Julie Sutcliffe © UC Regents
Julie Sutcliffe, a specialist in molecular imaging, will lead the research and training aspects of the new program.

The Northern California PET Imaging Center, originally established as a joint effort between Sutter Health Sacramento and CHW Healthcare, Sacramento, plans to use isotopes and radiopharmaceuticals produced in the new facility for patient diagnostics and clinical trials at the center's existing Sacramento clinic.

"Our center has worked closely for years with UC Davis and PETNET Solutions in the molecular imaging field," said Ruth Tesar, NCPIC's chief executive officer. "This new partnership is an important extension of that collaboration. Each of us brings something unique to the table and it creates a very significant and unique model to develop and ultimately provide advanced health-care services for Sacramento and the nation.

In addition to research and clinical-care benefits, the partnership fits well with the economic development vision of the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance and its medical technology program, MedStart.

"Our region has some amazing capabilities in medical technologies, including molecular imaging," said Cary Adams, chair of MedStart. "This new partnership not only promises to help transform health care in the coming years, but it also can serve as a catalyst for new entrepreneurial efforts and other collaborations that will create job opportunities and wealth for our region."

About UC Davis Health System
UC Davis Health System is advancing the health of patients everywhere by providing excellent patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, fostering innovative, interprofessional education, and creating dynamic, productive partnerships with the community. The academic health system includes one of the country's best medical schools, a 645-bed acute-care teaching hospital, an 800-member physician's practice group and the new Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. It is home to a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, an international neurodevelopmental institute, a stem cell institute and a comprehensive children's hospital. Other nationally prominent centers focus on advancing telemedicine, improving vascular care, eliminating health disparities and translating research findings into new treatments for patients. Together, they make UC Davis a hub of innovation that is transforming health for all. For more information, visit healthsystem.ucdavis.edu.

About Northern California PET Imaging Center 
Northern California PET Imaging Center was established as its own corporation in 1992 as a not-for-profit, community benefit organization committed to providing Positron Emission Tomography and Molecular Imaging services to the Northern California region.  It was the nation's first freestanding PET Imaging Center and is the result of a joint sponsorship between Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento Sierra Region and CHW Healthcare, Sacramento.  For more information, visit www.NorCalScans.org.