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A breakthrough in molecular imaging technology

CASE STUDY: Serac Imaging Systems and University of Leicester

How Serac collaborated with University of Leicester to develop an innovative, Hybrid Gamma-Optical Camera (HGC) for medical applications

Serac Imaging Systems’ molecular imaging technologies are intended to help clinicians make better, more informed and more timely treatment decisions, resulting in improved outcomes, better quality of life for patients and more effective use of healthcare resources.

Next generation imaging systems

Serac Imaging Systems (SIS) is developing an innovative, Hybrid Gamma-Optical Camera (HGC) for medical applications, scheduled to be available from late 2021.

Currently the benefits of molecular imaging (MI) with radio-labelled tracers are largely restricted to patients who can be referred to the nuclear medicine (NM) department of a hospital where the big, expensive, heavy, conventional cameras are sited in dedicated rooms.

The HGC will be smaller, cheaper and easier to use than anything that exists on the market today. It is intended to be portable and take imaging from the NM department to the patient, wherever they may be – the outpatient clinic, hospital ward, physician office, the intensive care unit (ICU), or even a remote village in the developing world – point of care imaging.

The high-resolution imaging system is based on hybrid gamma and optical imaging technology originally developed for space observation applications by the University of Leicester. It was then further developed for the medical sector, with support from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), in a collaboration between the Space Research Centre at the University of Leicester and the Queens Medical Centre at the University of Nottingham.

Support from SPRINT and University of Leicester

As part of the ongoing development of the project, SIS signed up to SPRINT where the University of Leicester built a research prototype system that could be demonstrated to potential users and used as a benchmark to compare the improved performance of the revised prototype. This collaboration aimed to resolve the known technical issues with the Leicester system, extend the performance of the system, test the concept of the camera with target customers, and build a revised prototype, the performance of which could be benchmarked against the Leicester system.

Benefits achieved through the SPRINT project included:

• Independent market research showed excellent support for the camera concept amongst nuclear medicine physicians
• The revised prototype addresses the known technical issues of the University of Leicester system (e.g. detector sensitivity increased approximately five-fold, need for vacuum removed, need to cool the detector removed, shielding improved, variable pinhole system implemented)
• Project helped to identify opportunities for new patents
• Job created – recruited new head of product development
• ‘Manufacturability’ has been improved significantly

SPRINT project proves concept of new camera

David Hail, CEO of Serac Imaging Systems said: “This collaboration with the University of Leicester through the SPRINT awards is a big step forward in our work to make the huge benefits of molecular imaging more accessible to patients, wherever they are and so to fulfil the commercial promise of the current working prototype Hybrid Gamma-Optical Camera.”

Paul Cload, Chief Marketing Officer at Serac Imaging Systems added: “The SPRINT project is broadly a benchmarking exercise to compare the SIS version to the original Leicester camera and research areas in which we can improve on the performance of the prototype. We wanted to get the system to the point where we could confidently demonstrate it to potential customers to assess how it performs clinically and get feedback on where they can get the most effective use from it.

“The SPRINT project has met and exceeded our expectations. When we worked on the original prototype, we had issues with the vacuum and cooling, but we have now resolved those. Sensitivity has improved dramatically – approximately five-fold increase – and whereas the camera head was initially built over three days by PhD-level scientists, we believe the revised prototype can be assembled and quality-controlled in a matter of hours by technicians.

“Part of the SPRINT project involved independent market research amongst nuclear medicine physicians to gauge their enthusiasm for the camera concept. The results were as positive as we could have hoped for with more than 95 per cent of respondents expressing support for the camera.

“We’re delighted with the progress we’ve made to date and will shortly begin studies with ‘phantoms’ which mimic the clinical applications we are targeting, at a nuclear medicine department in a UK hospital.”