Office of Research Molecular Imaging - Office of Research

Molecular Imaging

Molecular Imaging

Why It Is Important

Current medical imaging devices are limited in their sensitivity and only view a small part of the body at any moment in time. Furthermore, many molecular targets that have been demonstrated to play important roles in cancer cannot currently be imaged. Thus, the full potential of medical imaging to deliver early and accurate diagnosis, and to guide decisions on the most effective treatment, have not been met. The goal of this RISE project is to address these two limitations by developing new scanning technologies and new molecular imaging agents for positron emission tomography (PET) that will allow non-invasive imaging of the whole human body at unprecedented levels of sensitivity.

Our Approach

The Center for Translational Molecular Imaging is well-advanced in its plan to develop a total-body PET scanner, EXPLORER, that will allow molecular imaging studies to be performed in humans at up to 1/40th of the radiation dose currently used, decrease the scan time by 1/40th, or increase sensitivity by 40 times for total body imaging. This would open up a wealth of new possibilities for using PET to study the human body in health and disease, for example detecting low-grade disease, fast scan times that minimize patient motion and produce sharper images, and scanning in new populations that were not possible previously. The Center also is taking a new molecular imaging agent that was developed at UC Davis into human beings for the first time. The agent is a small peptide that targets a specific integrin which has been found to be overexpressed on many cancer cells. The overarching goal of this Center is to lay the foundation to elevate UC Davis into the top tier of molecular imaging programs in the country, and to develop expertise and resources that can be leveraged by our faculty in the biomedical sciences in translational studies across many disease areas.

Impacts & Highlights

  • Obtained IND from FDA for first in-human PET radiotracer for αvβ6 integrin
  • Non-human primate/veterinary version of EXPLORER total body PET scanner prototype completed (small-scale) for CNPRC
  • Held EXPLORER Total-Body PET worksop at UCDMC in April 2016


Simon R. Cherry Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Director for Molecular and Genomic Imaging (CMGI)
Julie L. Sutcliffe Associate Professor of Internal Medicine
Ramsey D. Badawi Associate Professor of Radiology
Terry Jones Clinical Professor of Diagnostic Radiology
Alice F. Tarantal Professor at the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC)
Jinyi Qi Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Lars Berglund Professor of Internal Medicine, Senior Associate Dean of Research, and Director of the UC Davis Clinical & Translational Science Center
Karen Kelly Professor of Hematology & Oncology
Sven Hausner Associate Project Scientist of Biomedical Engineering
Emilie Roncali Assistant Project Scientist of Biomedical Engineering
Julien Bec Development Engineer of Biomedical Engineering
Xuezhu Zhang Postdoc of Biomedical Engineering
Xiaowei Bai Staff Research Associate of Biomedical Engineering
Junwei Du Associate Specialist of Biomedical Engineering
Eric Berg Graduate Student of Biomedical Engineering
Edwin Leung Graduate Student of Biomedical Engineering
Brijesh Patel Undergraduate Student of Biomedical Engineering
Mariele Stockhoff Undergraduate Student of Biomedical Engineering

For more information on this program, please contact Christine Parks [email protected].