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Research & development

Canada’s most powerful MRI device installed in London

LONDON, Ont. – The Robarts Research Institute has announced the opening of Canada’s most advanced MRI facility in its Centre for Functional and Metabolic Mapping. The technology will be used to design and apply new techniques to better understand and develop treatments for a range of debilitating disorders.

The new 9.4 Tesla MRI scanner – with the largest combination of bore size and magnetic field in Canada, and one of only nine such units worldwide – will accelerate the non-clinical study of a range of disorders from respiratory illness and stroke to Alzheimer’s and ALS.

The project has been established with a $3 million investment by Merck Research Laboratories, a contribution that has leveraged another $4.68 million in additional federal and provincial funding for research at Robarts.

“This latest investment by Merck Research Laboratories strengthens an ongoing research partnership with Merck that brings together the best minds at Robarts and at Merck with the best in ultra-high field MRI technology,” said Dr. Mark Poznansky (pictured), Robarts President and Scientific Director. “Add to that the significant contribution of the Governments of Ontario and Canada to support the new field of metabolic imaging and we have created the winning conditions for innovation in medical science.”

Dr. Alastair Glass, Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Research and Innovation, joined senior executives from Merck Research Laboratories and Merck Frosst Canada at the opening of the facility in London.

For its part, the Government of Ontario contributed $2.35 million through the Ontario Research Fund. In addition, the Canada Foundation for Innovation invested $935,000 and the Canada Research Chairs Program is supporting this work with $1.4 million in research funds for Dr. Ravi Menon, Robarts Scientist and Director of the new Centre for Functional and Metabolic Mapping at Robarts.

“Ontario’s ability to compete and win in a global economy depends on our capacity to grow and sustain meaningful partnerships,” said Premier and Minister of Research and Innovation Dalton McGuinty. “The renewed partnership between Merck Frosst Canada, Merck Laboratories and the Robarts Research Institute will not only enhance our province’s research expertise in the field of lung disease and beyond, but will also improve our quality of life for years to come.”

This latest investment highlights Merck’s ongoing partnership with Robarts. In 2004, Merck invested nearly $5 million to support the opening of the Merck-Frosst Centre for Respiratory Imaging at Robarts. The Centre is now pioneering the use of hyperpolarized gases and MRI scanning using a 3 Tesla clinical system to visualize the smallest airways of the lungs.

“Merck Research Laboratories are pleased to expand our imaging collaboration at Robarts by supporting high field MRI non-clinical imaging that complements the clinical imaging capabilities established in 2004,” said Dr Richard Hargreaves, Vice President Imaging, Merck Research Laboratories.

“This new instrument provides opportunities to discover potential biomarkers of respiratory and central nervous system diseases that can be mapped to clinical investigations, providing a bridge to accelerate the development of safe and effective therapies,” continued Dr. Hargreaves. “Robarts’s leading position in the development of novel imaging technologies and techniques makes them an ideal partner for MRL in these endeavors.”

The MRI scanner and associated optical imaging equipment opens the door to a host of techniques being developed at Robarts in the emerging field of metabolic imaging.

One project, led by Robarts Scientist Dr. Robert Bartha, involves using the MRI to look directly at changes in brain tissue metabolism as Alzheimer’s disease worsens over time. Dr. Bartha’s team is also working to develop methods to detect Alzheimer’s plaques, a hallmark of the disease that cannot be seen with current clinical imaging methods.

“The holy grail of our MRI research will be to detect molecules non-invasively in living animals and humans that are currently only measurableby using sophisticated microscopes on cells in a dish,” explained Dr. Menon, who also holds a Canada Research Chair in Functional and Molecular Imaging at the University of Western Ontario.

About Merck & Co., Inc.
Merck & Co., Inc. is a global research-driven pharmaceutical company dedicated to putting patients first. Established in 1891, Merck currently discovers, develops, manufactures and markets vaccines and medicines to address unmet medical needs. For more information, visit www.merck.com.

About Robarts Research Institute
For 20 years, Robarts has been Canada’s leading independent non-profit medical research institute, harnessing the power of cell biology, genomics and advanced imaging technologies to better understand, treat and prevent a range of debilitating conditions from heart disease and stroke to Alzheimer’s and cancer.

 

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