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Advancing Nuclear Medicine through Innovation
resolution and sensitivity), and to incorporate new technology that will achieve this objective in the clinical imaging equipment of today, so that it is reliable, practical, and easy to use.
7.2 SIGNIFICANT DISCOVERIES
Federal investments in instrumentation and computational development have included infrastructure support at the national laboratories as well as direct grants to universities and national laboratories from the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Almost all of the core technologies in instrumentation and computation used in nuclear medicine have been developed as a result of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the DOE funding (see Chapter 2). Some of the key developments include the Anger camera (the basic foundation for all single photon imaging systems currently in use), SPECT, PET, cyclotron targetry and radionuclide generator systems, basic image reconstruction algorithms, and kinetic modeling applied to PET and SPECT studies.
The state-of-the-art SPECT and PET scanners used today in the clinic illustrate how critical it is to have the infrastructure and funding to support the flow of technology from the nuclear and high-energy laboratories that develop new detectors and electronics to the nuclear medicine instrumentation laboratories that develop new imaging tools. Often these basic science experiments are large efforts that utilize the expertise of many individuals at the national laboratories with contributions from university-based basic research groups. There are many examples of projects that were promising but high risk, and development of these projects was undertaken by DOE-funded laboratories which had the time and expertise to work on the new technologies over many years. DOE’s mission to develop new technologies for imaging allowed for long-range (i.e., more than 5-year), high-risk projects with an emphasis on basic instrumentation research. In contrast, NIH’s mission is to carry out more short-term (2 to 5 years), lower-risk (i.e., more preliminary data) projects that emphasize the integration or evaluation of new technologies for clinical application. The long-range view of DOE support allowed time for the investigator to pursue alternative approaches, some of which failed, in search of the most practical solution.
To illustrate this flow of technology, we note two of the many examples of technology development in PET instrumentation that were funded by DOE, as neither was a good candidate for NIH funding, and that were later commercialized. The first is the University of Pennsylvania’s PennPET scanner project. The PennPET project developed scanners designed for clinical use that were based on Anger-logic detectors (similar in concept to the Anger camera developed earlier at UC Radiation Laboratory with AEC