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Total-body scanner set to unlock disease insights

06 Oct 2023

Scotland is set to receive its first total-body scanner in a boost to clinical research that aims to improve the detection, diagnosis and treatment of complex, multi-organ diseases.

The Total-Body Positron Emission Tomography (PET) facility, due to be operational in 2024, will capture images of patients’ entire bodies quicker, in more detail and use less radiation than existing scanners.

In combination with data from the other new scanner in London, the Scotland scanner forms part of a new National PET Imaging Platform (NPIP) which experts believe will accelerate the development of new drugs and diagnostics.

The platform, a partnership between Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Innovate UK, aims to advance healthcare research and clinical trials, and unlock new treatments for complex diseases like cancer as well as cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

The NPIP Scotland Total-Body PET facility will also allow academics to connect to the new platform to share data and collaborate on research.

Based at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, it will be jointly managed by the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

NPIP’s Total-Body PET scanners have higher sensitivity than current technology and will reveal new insights into biology and disease, including detecting early onset of diseases.

Non-invasive, the new scanners are also faster, exposing patients to much lower doses of radiation, meaning more patients – including children – can participate in clinical trials to improve understanding of diseases.

Supplied by Siemens Healthineers, the two Total-Body PET scanners will capture superior images of a patient’s entire body in near real-time.

The speed of Total-Body PET scanners mean that NPIP will be able to facilitate more patient scans, enhancing the scale and impact of clinical research projects.

This richer picture of human health will help researchers to develop new diagnostics, improve the quality and speed of drug discovery, and bring them to market more quickly.

Dr Susan Bodie, Head of Business Development for the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, said:

Full-body PET will create comprehensive disease knowledge in ways that have not been possible previously, which can be used collaboratively with industry partners to support the development of their new treatments.
The creation of new capability in advanced imaging, future data platforms, development of new diagnostics and utility of imaging, in collaboration with industry, will lead to benefits for patients.”

NPIP’s network of infrastructure and intelligence will provide a complete picture of patients and how they respond to new drugs and treatments.

Uniquely, it will also connect insights from many research programmes and trials. In doing so, it will begin to build a rich bank of data that the PET community can access for the benefit of patients.

Professor David Newby, The University of Edinburgh, Co-Director of the NPIP Scotland Centre, said:

The Scotland Total-Body PET facility will bring together academics, industry and clinicians to create an integrated and accessible national PET facility for the benefit of patients across Scotland and the north of England. The Total-Body PET scanner will allow us to examine patients in ways that haven’t been possible before, propelling medical innovation and discovery, and ultimately improving the detection, diagnosis and treatment of complex diseases, including cancer. ”

Dr David Lewis, University of Glasgow, Co-Director of the NPIP Scotland Centre, said:

Total-Body PET scanners are a quantum leap forward in the technology of body scanning, and we are proud that a partnership between the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow will jointly manage one of the first of these cutting-edge scanners in the UK. The Scotland Total-Body PET scanner will be a catalyst for innovative new research and cross-sector collaboration, ultimately benefitting patients by improving our understanding of complex diseases. ”

The scanners are part of a £32 million investment into the ground-breaking technology by the UK Government, through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Infrastructure Fund.

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