Health Care and Technology

Facility will assist with drug development

New cyclotron particle accelerator is used in medical field.

March 14, 2014
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Cyclotron
The Mattawan-based center is scheduled to begin operation this spring. Courtesy Translational Imaging Center

A new facility in southwest Michigan is bringing in a particle accelerator to assist in drug development.

MPI Research, inviCRO and 3D Imaging announced last month they are collaborating to bring a cyclotron to the Translational Imaging Center in Mattawan. The 10,000-square-foot, two-story new home of the cyclotron is on the MPI Research campus and a result of the partnership among the three organizations.

A cyclotron is a particle accelerator often used in the medical field to produce radioisotopes, which can subsequently be used in a several ways, including: radiopharmaceuticals; imaging and diagnosing certain infections and diseases; and therapeutic treatments. 

The cyclotron was disassembled at its previous location in Connecticut and shipped to Michigan, where it will be reconstructed with additional supportive radiochemistry equipment at the Translational Imaging Center.

William U. Parfet, chairman and chief executive officer at MPI Research, said the arrival of the particle accelerator is a critical milestone in the development of the new facility.

“The placement of the cyclotron within the Translational Imaging Center will give researchers timely access to a wide range of isotopes for tracing true performance of promising drug candidates,” said Parfet in the press release. “This ability, along with our advanced data interpretation abilities, will help drug developers reach key go/no-go decisions faster and more efficiently.” 

Scott Haller, director of the Translational Imaging Center, said the primary significance of the cyclotron and what it will allow the organization to do is produce both long half-life and short half-life radioisotopes on site.

“If you are bound as an imaging center or reliant upon commercially available isotopes or another reproduction center, there are limitations on the type of radiopharmaceuticals you can produce, because those that have short half-lives, essentially all of the activity by the time you would get it to the scanners and administer it to whatever system you are evaluating, it is essentially going to be depleted to the point below detection,” said Haller.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s “Cyclotron Produced Radionuclides: Principles and Practice” report in 2008, a cyclotron is the most commonly used device for accelerating particles to an energy level sufficient for bringing about the required nuclear reaction to create radioisotopes. 

The use of cyclotrons in medicine was revived in the 1950s after the end of World War II, after discovering radioisotopes could be used to detect how well the heart is functioning and its blood flow.

The collaboration of MPI Research, inviCRO and 3D Imaging was announced in June 2013 in an effort to accelerate drug discovery and development and meet the industry’s need for comprehensive imaging services in a single location. Pharmaceutical and other life science companies have a need for comprehensive imaging services that the new facility can provide in one location. 

One of the strengths the new facility offers is having the cyclotron in close proximity to the imaging services, which will allow the partnering organizations to utilize all radioisotopes produced. The ability to use short half-life radioisotopes opens the door to radiolabeling the small molecules, of which there are a significant number under development for therapeutics, according to Haller. The longer-lived molecules have larger structures and can alter the makeup of the chemicals when using it with radiolabeling small molecules. 

Haller said with the addition of the new cyclotron, the focus of the facility is now primarily on research and answering critical questions posed by some of the drug development teams such as pharmacology, activity, retention rate and bodily accumulation. 

The Translational Imaging Center will leverage the molecular imaging informatics team from Boston-based inviCRO, the radiopharmaceutical group at 3D Imaging in Arkansas, and the comprehensive CRO-based services of MPI Research, according to the press release.  

“It is a multimillion-dollar project,” said Haller. “These are capital investments, and it’s not an insignificant amount of money that is being spent and/or expensed to put together this center. We truly believe in, one, the business opportunity, but ultimately the power of this technology in drug development and certainly the utilization through this center for multiple parties in drug development, whether they be small, mid-size or large pharma.” 

The cyclotron at the Translational Imaging Center is scheduled to begin operation this spring, and products from the cyclotron are anticipated to be commercially available in May when the facility opens.

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