OU college pioneers biomarker generator
The OU College of Pharmacy will be the first institution in the world to install and use a biomarker generator for help in imaging and diagnosing diseases.
A biomarker generator creates a radiation tag doctors can look for in scans of the body to identify substances, such as cancerous tumors or brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease, said Vibhudutta Awasthi, College of Pharmacy researcher and professor.
“Biomarkers are mostly for diagnostic work,” Awasthi said. “They are meant to specifically pick a disease process, localize the process in the body, tell where it is, the extent of it and then treatment planning and monitoring.”
Similar machines called cyclotrons exist, but they require a 4,000-square foot facility, according to a press release. This new biomarker generator is about one-fifth that size.
“This is the first smallest one that has been named as a biomarker generator,” Awasthi said. “Because of its simplicity, it can produce biomarkers on demand. If a patient is in the clinic and that patient needs an imaging study using a certain biomarker, then you can start by pushing the button, and within 30 to 40 minutes you can have a dose for that patient.”
Without the machine, the lab relied on ordering radioactive biomarkers from companies in Dallas, which had a limited supply, Awasthi said. Also, the sample decays over time, so only 25 percent of the sample is left after the four-hour transport from Dallas.
Awasthi said he talked to the manufacturer, Advanced Biomarker Technologies, for the past three years learning about the machine.
“The persistence was one of the biggest factors,” Awasthi said. “I personally was in touch with the company over the last three years and how they were evolving this machine. The persistence and the variety of expertise here makes it very attractive for the company to position this machine here.”
The machine would not have been possible without the College of Pharmacy’s leadership who took an interest in the machine and supported Awasthi, he said.
Because the machine is a world-first, international researchers and several U.S. researchers have taken an interest in the machine and its usefulness, Awasthi said.
“There’s a lot of curiosity about it,” Awasthi said. “People from Columbia, South America, India and several groups in the United States have expressed interested in visiting this place. It is an international attraction.”
One of the main advantages to the machine is that biomarkers reduce the number of surgeries and the costs associated with them, Awasthi said.
“In surgery, you don’t always know where [the problem] is, and you cannot just keep cutting everywhere,” Awasthi said. “You need a full-body diagnostic method where you can just inject that image into the whole body. The camera just scans the body and we can diagnose localization and disease process.”
The amount of radiation exposure in the biomarkers is a safe, approved level and everyone operating the machine is trained to use it, Awasthi said.
Researchers will begin using the machine in a lab setting, and once the machine has been tested and protocols have been created, the college will use it in a clinical setting to diagnose human patients.
Installation should be completed within four to six weeks, and researchers should start using it in about two to three months.