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
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
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
“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
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.