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GE Healthcare Gets License for New Imaging Agent That "Sees" Cell Death

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | January 05, 2010
An early glimpse of
a promising research effort
GE Healthcare acquired the license to a new molecular imaging agent that could be useful in diagnosing heart attacks and monitoring how well tumors respond to drugs, the company reported last week.

Developed by Ming Zhao, Ph.D., an assistant professor in biophysics at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wis., the tracer binds to dying cells, making it useful for doctors who want to detect damage to the heart, figure out if a tumor is weakening in response to treatment, or find hidden internal injuries.

"This molecule...binds to a particular molecular marker of dying cells," Dr. Zhao tells DOTmed News. So if tagged with a gamma-based radioactive tracer, such as an isotope of technetium, or even a fluorolabel, the molecule could become visible to the appropriate nuclear medicine modality, such as PET or SPECT.
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"When this molecule is radiolabeled or fluorolabeled, it can become detectable by imaging modalities for diagnostic purposes," Dr. Zhao says.


But more than that, Dr. Zhao wouldn't say.

Much of the project, which Dr. Zhao began in 2007, is shrouded in secrecy, and Dr. Zhao wouldn't name the molecular biomarker for cell death or the particle which binds to it, to protect this intellectual property.

But more information will probably come out in a year or so, Dr. Zhao says. Presumably by then, GE, which acquired the rights to develop the tracer and an option to commercialize it if successful, will have brought it closer to clinical reality.