Imaging Center Opens
Facility to offer multiple applications
The reputation of Shreveport-Bossier as a center for medicine and medical research was given a boost with the June 8 opening of the Center for Molecular Imaging and Therapy by Building our Regions Future (BRF). The foundation is an economic development organization designed to establish north Louisiana as a destination for high-growth initiatives, according to its website. Formerly the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, BRF was formed in 1986.
The new facility combines services spread out in three locations before its completion. The project, which included construction of the facility and acquisition of equipment, was supported by BRF, the state of Louisiana, state and national organizations, community groups and private donors. The new facility will house three key services: molecular imaging and therapy, manufacturing services, and research.
Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson said CMIT will enhance Louisiana’s position in the life sciences sector “by attracting contracts from out-of-state entities that drive revenue streams and create high-paying jobs.” He congratulated BRF for advancing health care for Louisiana “while promoting the kind of groundbreaking research and collaboration that the health-care industry has come to expect from our state.”
Encompassing 23,000 square feet and costing $19.5 million, CMIT Executive Director Pradeep Garg said, “With new production equipment and expanded capabilities, CMIT will grow its catalog of novel radiopharmaceuticals to include applications in cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, hyperinsulinism, and pancreatic and other cancers.”
Director of Imaging Service Dr. Stephen Lokitz outlined the three main areas of the new center’s operation. “The first is the clinical operation, where we have PET imaging and radiotherapy for clinical use and a brand new, beautiful patient facility.” PET stands for positron emission tomography, which works by detecting subatomic particles, called photons, emitted by a marker agent injected into a patient so physicians can monitor and evaluate the function of various body organs.
“The second part is our radio chemistry manufacturing facility,” Lokitz said, “which includes a new cyclotron, which is a particle accelerator which makes radioisotopes. We have a significant expansion of our capacity to convert the radioisotope into radiopharmaceuticals.” That expansion is good for a lot of reasons, Lokitz said.
“The first is health care. This is going to grow the cutting-edge, molecular imaging abilities that CMIT already has, but will double, triple, quadruple that capacity. That’s going to lead to more availability here in Shreveport.”
That availability, he said, will make a big difference in the level of health care available in this region. Its care is usually found only in centers on the East and West Coast or large medical centers.
“The second is economic development. This is a $20-million project. We’re expecting to double or triple our workforce. These are high-paying, high-talent jobs, scientists, PhDs, physicians, technicians. It never hurts to bring high-paying jobs to Shreveport.”
The building itself also enlarges the “medical footprint” of this area. “That’s the third thing; it’s going to drive collaborations, not only with the local institutions — we already collaborate with the medical school and Feist-Weiller (Cancer Center); this will allow them more access to resources — it’s also going to be attractive to big-Pharma and biotech companies from outside Shreveport,” Lokitz predicted. “We’ve already seen this with some of our collaborations. We are shipping radiopharmaceuticals from Shreveport to Boston for a specific trial. They couldn’t get that radiopharmaceutical manufactured anywhere else.”
He said some of the big hospitals and university medical centers in the Northeast have radiopharmaceutical capabilities, but they still turn to CMIT for their needs. “We hope that as we grow and we show what we’re capable of, these pharmaceutical companies are going to come here to take advantage of our resources.”
The imaging center is in place and operational, and the cyclotron and the radiochemistry facilities undergo mandatory FDA testing. He said they hope to have those tests completed quickly so the chemists can move into their new space and continue manufacturing the highdemand pharmaceuticals.