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New Zealand taking the lead with 3D scanner

Canterbury and New Zealand taking the lead with 3D scanner to help reduce diseases

June 22, 2014

The University of Canterbury and New Zealand is leading the world’s pre-clinical imaging market with research work on its commercial 3D scanner improving the treatment of diseases.

The university’s spin-out company‘s MARS-Bioimaging scanner can look inside the body to examine molecular structures, tissues, diagnose common illnesses such as the build-up of plaque in heart disease and also cartilage and arthritis. It also enables drug delivery systems that allow researchers to follow drugs in the body to help the fight against cancer and joint diseases.

Associate Professor Anthony Butler says it is important for New Zealand to have a world-leading biomedical research tools so health researchers can understand new information.

``We have been the first in the world to explore the scanner and its applications. While others theorise about scanner uses we can actually test them.

``Five years ago there were only a small number of people in the world doing this research. There are now special editions of journals covering the topics and conferences. The preclinical imaging market involving scanners used in medical research is worth about $US200 million a year and growing 16 percent annually.’’

MARS-Bioimaging last year won the Canterbury Regional Deloitte Fast 50 Rising Star Award. The University of Canterbury, which has a share in the company, has a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment bid under consideration with a goal is to build a scanner to use on patients.

``If we have success with the bid we expect to be safely scanning large animals such as sheep in about three years and able to undertake human clinical trials in five years’ time. The scanner will be hosted in Otago University’s Christchurch Medical School. Several local companies MBI, Interlink Research and Shamrock are partners. International partners include CERN, GE Healthcare and Kromek.

``We face a number of technical challenges such as the quality of sensor materials and coping with the high power of the x-ray tubes used for human scanning.

``On the clinical side we know there is likely to be benefit for monitoring drug delivery agents and joint implant imaging. The purpose of a human scanner for clinical trials is to evaluate how this new information translates to improved human diagnosis and management.

``The University of Canterbury has $4.5 million of Government funding from 2008 to 2014 to work on the project, has spent significant time and money building scanners. MARS-Bioimaging is selling the technology -components and scanners – internationally,’’ Associate Professor Prof Butler says.


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