Houston Start-Up Firm Develops Better CT Scan Contrasting Agents

A Houston-based firm has obtained a worldwide license to intellectual property co-developed at the UT School of Health Information Sciences at Houston. As we hear from Houston Public Radio's Ed Mayberry it's for an improved method to help physicians better diagnose acute chest pain.

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CT scans provide physicians with three-dimensional views of inside the body, and contrast agents are used to enhance the quality of the images. But the dyes are rapidly cleared from the blood stream, giving radiologists only a minute or two to get chest images, according to Dr. Ananth Annapragada.

"And so you have usually, after injection, one to two minutes at most during which you have to get the entire image. As it pushes its way through the kidneys, it causes kidney damage."

Dr. Annapragada's procedure uses nanocarriers to deliver the contrast agents, allowing hours to get the images and reducing toxicity to patients.

"It's placed in a nanoparticle package called a liposome, so it stays in the bloodstream with a half-life of 18 hours. It is a lot easier on the kidneys because you don't have to inject a slug--you infuse it slowly."

UT Health Science Center start-up company Marval Biosciences obtained a worldwide license to the improved contrast agents. The UT Health Science Center will hold equity in Marval, according to Luetta Allen, who led the licensing and inter-institutional agreement negotiations. Licensing extends beyond new products or procedures.

"We have a very strong copyright business. So it's not just patents, it's copyrights. We have educational materials. A lot of our faculty are publishing in very high-profile journals, and these are scanned by business entities and they will approach us."

The licensing agreement moves the technology closer to the marketplace.

"We share 50 percent of all net revenue with our inventors themselves, and then a portion goes to the laboratory to further development. A portion goes to the department and then a portion is retained by this office to invest in additional patents."

Dr. Annapragada says the best use for this new procedure is for diagnosing acute chest pains, for which there are usually three probable causes.

"One is coronary artery stenosis--clogged coronaries. There's the possibility of a coronary embolism. And there's the possibility of a descending aortic dissection. Eight percent, maybe, of these patients end up getting a CAT scan, but the only thing they're ruling out is coronary artery stenosis. What our technique allows you to do is rule out all three at the same time without the need for follow-up scans."

Clinical trials must be completed before the agents are available for widespread patient use. Ed Mayberry, Houston Public Radio News.

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