Imaging Probe Development

The discovery of new imaging probes is critical to the advancement of disease diagnosis and therapy. Imaging probes allow non-invasive 3D molecular imaging of biochemical processes in living organisms. They consist of two components: one targets the biochemical process of interest and the other is an imaging component that allows for the external viewing of the probe location within the body. The probes can be small molecules, peptides, antibodies or nanoparticles and can be tailored for various imaging technologies i.e. MRI, CT, optical and nuclear (PET, SPECT).


Research begins with basic chemistry to design and prepare novel imaging probes. Our approach uses known peptides (rational approach) or alternatively, screens a library of peptides (random approach) to discover new targeting ligands. Once the targeting ability is validated, the probe is labeled with a radionuclide for PET or SPECT imaging in animals prior to translating to clinical use in humans.
M.S. Kovacs
cyclotron and PET radiochemistry
L.G. Luyt
SPECT radiochemistry and medicinal chemistry
P.L. Zabel

Cyclotron & PET Radiochemistry
Molecular Imaging


Future Directions
  • Develop new probes for PET or SPECT imaging of biomarkers, focusing on cancer, diabetes, heart disease and mental illnesses.
  • Synthesize Positron Emitting Radiopharmaceuticals (PERs), optimize their chemistry, and prepare them to GMP specifications for use in humans.
  • Validate probes via in vitro experiments and our small animal µPET and µSPECT scanners.
  • Verify with large animal imaging on a clinical PET/CT or SPECT/CT scanner.
  • Conduct clinical trials to help translate into clinical practice.

We are seeking:

  • Contract Research
  • Long Term Partnership with Industry
  • Clinical Trials
  • Radiopharmaceutical Production
Key Accomplishments

PET:  PET is the most advanced medical diagnostic imaging technology available today. Due to their short half-lives, PET radionuclides need to be generated in close proximity to the PET scanner. Lawson has recently celebrated the grand opening of our new Nordal Cyclotron & Radiochemistry Facility. We are now able to produce PET radionuclides onsite.

SPECT:  Currently, Lawson Scientists are researching solutions to the shortage of nuclear reactor-produced medical isotopes for imaging:

  • A cyclotron-based technology is in development for commercial production of technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the most commonly used isotope for nuclear medicine.
  • Clinical testing is underway on a new patented Tc-99m Cysteine Rhenium Colloid optimized for sentinel lymph node imaging to monitor the spread of breast cancer. This formulation reduces the amount of Tc-99m required by up to 90%.

Imaging probes have been developed that target cancer cells and pancreatic beta cells for diabetes imaging (see also Molecular Imaging).

All rights reserved. Lawson Imaging, Lawson Health Research Institute
268 Grosvenor Street, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 4V2
Tel:(519) 646-6100 | Fax:(519) 646-6205