Instrumentation in Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry

Björn Wängler, Professor of Molecular Imaging and Radiochemistry at Heidelberg University, began collaborating with Bruker two years ago when the company provided the university’s medical faculty with a new Xtreme system, the Albira PET/SPECT/CT and a 1T MRI system. As a radiopharmaceutical chemist, Wängler’s work is focused on the development of novel radiotracers for diagnosis or therapy that can be used directly in the clinical setting.

One of the projects his team are working on is the research campus initiative MOLIE, which is concerned with the development of new techniques for diagnosing oligometastasized patients. Bruker helps the team improve its research instrumentation and assists with any problems that arise. Since the instruments can be tested under real lab conditions, Bruker can learn how they will perform in the real world, as opposed to just the research and development setting.

Also part of the collaboration is the testing of new software and work carried out with the applications team. Another project the researchers are working on, MITIGATE, is focused on rare diseases and they are also developing new radiopharmaceuticals for the diagnosis and treatment of resistant gastrointestinal stromal tumors.

In an interview, Wängler described the main aspects of his team’s research. These include the performance of easier labeling, with both radionuclides and fluorescent dyes; the development of new target-specific structures and the design of new molecules for cancer diagnosis or treatment.

For Wängler, a key benefit of using Bruker’s high-end instrumentation is the ability to obtain direct calculations: “We have a collaboration partner, Professor Glatting here in the Medical Physics Department who calculates the radiotracer pharmacokinetics and what makes the in silico prediction of the pharmacokinetics of a new radiotracer possible for humans and he absolutely needs the in vivo data for these calculations. He needs the curves and not only the time points.”

Wängler also points out the obvious advantage that using the instrumentation means less animals need to be sacrificed. Ex vivo studies require the sacrificing of animals so that organs can be removed and measured, which is not very precise and cannot really predict whether a radiotracer would be useful in a clinical setting, he explains “to really have the chain from bench to bedside, you need the instrumentation.”

Since the majority of Wängler’s work concerns radiochemistry research and the development of new radiotracers, the most important instrument for the team at the moment is their Albira system, which is their main workhorse. The Albira is one of the smallest tri-modal systems available and can be housed in almost any lab. Equipped with a unique system that uses a combination of single crystal detectors and advanced electronics, the Albira enables extremely high resolution, precise, quantitative PET and SPECT images to be obtained.

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