Molecular imaging using spectral photon counting for Covid-19

MARS Bioimaging, New Zealand (MBI) is seeking for partners to better enable drug discovery and therapy monitoring for lung Covid-19 and other lung diseases. The disease is likely to continue to disrupt the world for at least 12-18 months. In addition, the work will have benefits for future pandemic response.

What are the challenges faced in imaging lungs using CT today?

  • Covid-19, like other viral pneumonias, creates both lung inflammation and fibrosis. Current CT is non-specific and can only measure inflammation and fibrosis late in the disease, making diagnosis and treatment monitoring difficult. Therefore, MBI and its MARS partners around the world would like to use targeted nanoparticles to image lung inflammation. These can be either new nanoparticles or particles developed for inflammation elsewhere in the body.
  • Covid-19 infection also damages the heart. It has been observed that some patients who seemed to recover may die because of heart inflammation. Similarly to lung inflammation, nanoparticles could be used for heart imaging.

Current state:

  • MBI is in contact with nanoparticle developers who have previously developed a range of targeted nanoparticles. These groups believe they can make targeted nanoparticles for Covid-19 diseases in 2-6 months ready for the first animal testing. Nanoparticle administration could be through inhalation or injection or a combination.
  • MBI has access to a limited number of animal models for lung injury. Therefore work can begin immediately.
  • MBI has a network of spectral photon counting scanners in the USA and Asia-Pacific region. In the coming months it is expected that sites will become available in Europe. These scanners have a very high sensitivity and specificity for nanoparticles. These scanners have been used for molecular imaging in other areas such as bone, lung Tb, and cancer (see figures on the right of this page).

MBI is seeking partners who have:

  • Groups who have access to animal models of lung inflammation or models specific to Covid-19 infection
  • Groups who can synthesize nanoparticles to lung or heart injury in order to expand the number of nanoparticles available for testing.

Contact information

Prof Anthony Butler
Clinical radiologist and lead clinical researcher