TRACER™ has world-renowned experience and expertise in translational optical molecular imaging since the instalment of its first small animal imaging systems in 2004. As early as 2002, UMCG scientists were developing novel tools for in vivo optical imaging, both for image-guided surgery and endoscopy, as well as the evaluation of novel therapeutic drugs. Initial image-guided surgery studies involved bioluminescent imaging in oncology and infectious diseases using luciferase transgenic human cancer cell lines and bacteria, respectively. For oncology, the first in vivo studies were conducted using in-house synthesized therapeutic antibodies (i.e. bevacizumab and trastuzumab). For bacterial imaging, a conjugate of an antibiotic vancomycin with a near-infrared fluorescent dye was applied.
Since then, our team pioneered the first in-human application of fluorescent targeted imaging in patients with ovarian cancer, together with the Technical University of Munich and Purdue University (Nature Medicine 2011). This paradigm shift in fluorescence tumor-targeted imaging created a huge surge in fluorescence guided optical molecular imaging research on a global scale.
Given our longstanding in-depth understanding and history in tracer development, we designed and validated Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) covering in vivo and ex vivo evaluation of fluorescent tracers as part of our ambition to offer state-of-the-art validation processes for future regulatory approval in patients. Through our multidisciplinary team, we are able to translate antibody-based, nanobody-based and peptide-based fluorescent tracers for clinical applications. Further, we have applied drugs as imaging agents, enabling us to study the microscopic tissue-distribution in conjunction with standard and dedicated histopathology, resulting in Multiplex Advance Pathology Imaging (MAPI). This tool offers great possibilities in the development of novel pharmaceuticals besides its application as an evaluation tool for image-guided surgery, pathology and endoscopy.
The evolution of this unique concentration of technology, tracer development and validation provides the new standard for our clients both in drug development, optical imaging technology and fluorescent tracer development and evaluation.