Total-body PET imaging platform set to enhance scope of research into complex diseases and improve patient outcomes

The UK life sciences sector is set to benefit from a game-changing, first-of-its-kind national platform that connects cutting-edge infrastructure with clinical intelligence to provide a complete picture of the nation's positron emission tomography (PET) imaging research.

The National PET Imaging Platform (NPIP) will bring together data from two state-of-the-art total-body PET imaging scanners and make it accessible to academics, industry and clinicians.

The result of a partnership between Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Innovate UK, NPIP is designed to give the UK's pioneering researchers unprecedented access to technology that will enhance the scope of research into multi-organ, complex diseases.

NPIP's ground-breaking total-body PET technology, funded by a £32 million investment from the UK Government through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Infrastructure Fund, will help drive the UK's reputation as a global life science superpower.

It will unlock new groundbreaking discoveries, transform the quality of medical research across the UK, and attract the international research community to conduct clinical trials on British soil.

Commenting on the launch of NPIP, George Freeman MP, Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology said: “Advances in imaging and informatics pioneered here in the UK have led to a step-change in how we diagnose and treat diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's, bringing hope to patients and their families."

"Our £32 million backing for this Platform will give British clinicians and researchers access to a never-before-seen breadth of data, pushing forward new innovations from drug discovery to screening, strengthening our life sciences sector, and ultimately transforming lives," he added.

Unlocking new insights

PET scanning is a crucial, non-invasive imaging technique that can detect diseases' early onset. With higher sensitivity than current technology, NPIP's total-body PET scanners will provide new insights into anatomy that have never been seen before, improving the detection, diagnosis and treatment of complex, multi-organ diseases.

Total-body PET can provide a holistic view of an individual's body from head to toe and enable a greater understanding of multi-organ, complex disease progression.

Total-body PET scans are quicker, exposing patients to lower doses of radiation, meaning more patients, including children, can participate in clinical trials to improve researchers' understanding of diseases.

The speed of total-body PET means that NPIP will be able to facilitate more patient scans, enhancing the scale and impact of clinical research projects.

This technology will facilitate many novel research opportunities that could not ordinarily be achieved.

Talking about the power of PET technology, Dr Juliana Maynard, Director of Operations and Engagement for the National PET Imaging Platform and Head of Translational Imaging at Medicines Discovery Catapult, explained: "PET scanning is nothing short of transformational for patients who need it the most. Total-body PET scanners can detect serious diseases with unprecedented speed and accuracy."

She added: "The launch of NPIP and provision of these state-of-the-art total-body PET scanners is a testament to the UK's expertise and strength as a life sciences superpower and the collaborative efforts of the entire UK PET community."

Dr Adam Staines, Project Director for the National PET Imaging Platform and Associate Director at the Medical Research Council, commented: "Total-body PET imaging represents a significant technological advancement which will unlock many health advances in the next decade.

"The scientific advancements that will be enabled through the creation of NPIP will allow academic researchers, UK industry, and health professionals across the UK to all benefit from the investment."

He concluded: "This will, in turn, maintain the UK's position at the forefront of human imaging research and benefit many patients directly across key societal challenges such as dementia and cancer."

Investing in Infrastructure

NPIP will deploy total-body PET across the UK, bringing together transformational research from two state-of-the-art total-body PET imaging scanners that will be situated in Scotland and London, serving the length and breadth of the UK.

Each facility will be jointly managed by the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland and by King’s College London and Imperial College London in London.

Supplied by Siemens Healthineers, the two Biograph Vision Quadra PET/CT scanners are equipped with technical precision that redefines the boundaries of molecular imaging and enables imaging of a patient's entire body in near real-time.

Explaining the impact of the scanners, Lawrence Foulsham, Business Manager for Molecular Imaging at Siemens Healthineers GB&I, said: "Total-body PET scanning isn't just a leap in technology, it's a giant stride towards a healthier future. The NPIP launch is a testament to our commitment to innovation and collaboration in the field of medical imaging."

This richer picture of human health will help us develop drugs and diagnostics more effectively and bring them to market quicker, benefiting patients and enabling the UK to unlock new opportunities to treat complex diseases like cancer and cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

Complete Picture of Patients

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

The national platform will be very valuable for the UK life science sector, providing researchers with access to superior clinical data, not just from their own trials but from every research programme that joins the platform.

By connecting insights from many research programmes and trials, NPIP will begin to build a rich bank of data that the PET community can access for the benefit of patients.

NPIP will allow the kind of collaboration in imaging research the likes of which the UK has never seen before, setting a new standard of excellence for UK medical imaging research and unlocking innovative discoveries.

It means that, collectively, we can drive forward drug discovery with renewed confidence and become a world leader in detection, diagnosis, and treatment.

Commenting on the impact NPIP will have on patient outcomes and the drug discovery sector, Professor Chris Molloy, CEO of Medicines Discovery Catapult, reflected: "This programme is a great example of a Catapult in action: industrialising and driving adoption of innovative technology. MDC's work helps NPIP bring the community together and reshape drug discovery for patient benefit."

Making PET a world-class provision

NPIP's national infrastructure aims to make PET imaging a world-class provision in the UK. It will deliver even more detailed and insightful data, encourage greater collaboration across the clinical research community and unlock more opportunities for drug discovery and development.

By enabling better access to state-of-the-art imaging facilities for academia, industry, and SMEs, NPIP will contribute towards better outcomes for patients across the country.

Dr Maynard is inviting researchers from the UK to join NPIP's community and exploit the new technology to accelerate their programmes and discoveries: "By connecting data and problem-solving together, we can get more novel therapeutics to market quicker and strengthen the UK's position as a world leader in imaging research."

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The National PET Imaging Platform is funded through the UKRI Infrastructure Fund