Five years ago, two biomedical engineers from the UNC-NCSU Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, Dr. Paul Dayton, a professor, and his then graduate student Dr. Ryan Gessner created SonoVol with the vision to make non-invasive tumor imaging an easier, faster and more consistent process.
SonoVol: Accelerating research through imaging solutions
Have you ever asked yourself while doing a repetitive and frustrating task: isn’t there something that can make this process easier? I’m guessing you have, but how many of you envisioned and created a solution? That is exactly what two biomedical engineers from the UNC-NCSU Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, set out to do 5 years ago. Dr. Paul Dayton, a professor, and his then graduate student Dr. Ryan Gessner created SonoVol with the vision to make non-invasive tumor imaging an easier, faster and more consistent process. The company has since assembled a team of talented individuals from local North Carolina universities.
Four years later, the design for SonoVol’s 3D imaging platform, The Vega, was completed. The first instrument was sold to a pharmaceutical company developing a novel cancer treatment and installed earlier this month. The Vega can scan the full body of a laboratory animal in less than 3 minutes, and can scan multiple mice simultaneously. If that’s not amazing enough, this can be completed by a first-time user. To put that into perspective, images from other rodent imaging systems such as MRI or CT can take 10-60 minutes per animal. These modalities also require experienced users, and scans are subject to human error. Because the scanning process is entirely automated with The Vega, there is limited expertise needed to get a quick, quantitative high-quality image of tumors and their vasculature. Since 2000, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America member companies have invested more than half a trillion dollars in the search for new cancer treatments and cures (PhRMA.org). The increased efficiency and standardization The Vega provides will help to cut costs for these companies leading to potentially faster drug development and decreased cost for consumers. Pharma companies and university cancer researchers interested in The Vega platform are encouraged to contact SonoVol to discuss how this platform can be integrated into their existing workflows.
The combination of The Vega’s 3D ultrasound and Acoustic Angiography™ allow for users to rapidly visualize the entire animal and then gather tumor vascularization data within minutes. The overlay of these two techniques gives users the ability to noninvasively quantify tumor size and distribution of blood vessels ≥150 μm in diameter and at depths up to 2.5 cm into tissue. 3D ultrasound imaging is performed through successive scans of the anesthetized animals on the imaging device. Tissue microvasculature (seen below) is visualized through the use of microbubble as a contrast agent introduced into the bloodstream. The increased amount of data, speed and standardization provided by The Vega allow it to be easily integrated into the pharmaceutical industry and drug discovery market.
SonoVol isn’t stopping with The Vega’s current functionality. “By 2019 we plan to release the next generation of The Vega platform, adding optical and photoacoustic functionalities. These new modalities will offer oncology researchers additional information about preclinical cancer models and how they respond to new drugs,” says Dr. Gessner. Now that the first machine is out and the second is in production, Dr. Gessner and his team also plan to increase Sales and Marketing in the next year through private investors. The Vega will positively impact cancer drug discovery efforts by making it easier to understand tumor growth and response to therapy, and will hopefully contribute to uncovering cures for cancer.