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Indian start-up develops more effective, less toxic MRI

Posted: 07 Nov 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:start-up  MRI  magnetic fields 

An Indian start-up based on a Purdue University innovation plans to improve and commercialise the results of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), a technique used at hospitals for medical diagnoses.

David Thompson, president of Aten Biotherapeutics, said MRI scanners use magnetic fields around the areas that physicians want to be imaged so tissue abnormalities are revealed. Imaging agents, which are small molecules that greatly improve the contrast in these images, are administered intravenously or orally. However, they often are cleared rapidly through the kidney.

"In a traditional MRI session, an agent has a half-life of only about five minutes. This means the ability to capture a useful image usually is lost within 15 or 20 minutes. That isn't long enough to image tumours or cardiovascular problems. These imaging applications would require the administration of more contrast agent," he said. "Unfortunately, some of the clinically approved agents in current use can lead to kidney toxicity, particularly in the elderly or other individuals with impaired kidney function. In those cases, higher concentrations can't be administered to achieve longer imaging sessions."

David Thompson

David Thompson, president of Aten Biotherapeutics and Purdue University professor of chemistry, works in his laboratory to develop a controlled-release Magnetic Resonance Imaging agent. (Source: Purdue Research Foundation)

Researchers led by Thompson, a professor in Purdue's Department of Chemistry, are developing controlled-release imaging agents that allow for a longer, safer imaging session.

Aditya Kulkarni, chief technology officer at Aten Biotherapeutics, earned his Ph.D. degree in Thompson's laboratory and was involved in creating the technology at Purdue. He said the company's agents stay in circulation for a longer period of time.

"This leads to improved MR imaging," he said. "Agents are released in a slower, more controlled fashion. This leads to a lower concentration requirement for capturing an MR image. The lower concentration of the imaging agent, combined with its longer circulation and degradation into non-toxic byproducts, could potentially lower the risk of long MR imaging procedures."

The technology has been licensed to Aten Biotherapeutics through the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization. More than 20 start-ups based on Purdue intellectual property were launched in the 2014 fiscal year (See video below).

Aten Biotherapeutics already has received a first round of investments, along with several SBIR grants in India. The company also is actively cultivating industry partnerships as it continues clinical testing and generates data.

Thompson said Aten Biotherapeutics also is developing a first-in-class therapeutic for Niemann-Pick Type C, a disease with no known cure.

"Niemann-Pick Type C, or NPC, results in the trapping and accumulation of cholesterol in the cells of affected individuals. This aberrant storage of cholesterol leads to cell death, loss of neurologic, liver and lung function, and, in most cases, death of the individual at an early age," he said. "Aten Biotherapeutics is developing a polymeric prodrug for treating NPC that degrades into low toxicity components found in multiple FDA-approved products with a well-known pharmacology. These byproducts promote the mobilisation of improperly stored cholesterol in cells with an accompanying extension of cell survival."

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