Monash University and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) received funding in late 2014 from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) to establish the Biomedical Materials Translational Facility (BMTF).
One of the aims of the BMTF was to provide a facility capable of real-time non-invasive imaging in large animal pre-clinical studies. An integral step in the achievement of this goal was the installation of an MR-PET scanner at Monash Biomedical Imaging (MBI). MR-PET scanner technology provides the unique capabilities of simultaneously acquiring high quality non-invasive images, particularly in soft tissues, together with dynamic molecular imaging data, in pre-clinical and human imaging research studies.
To facilitate routine PET scanning in human participants and large animal research models, the plans included construction of dedicated laboratory spaces for the production, testing, and dispensing of radiopharmaceuticals, as well as a large animal surgery.
The project commenced in early 2015, with an ambitious timeline requiring scanner installation and completion of the first scans by Dec 2015. An intensive design phase gathered critical design parameters from numerous experts including those in the fields of human and large animal research to guide construction of the large animal surgery and BMTF Facility. Experts in the production and utilization of radiopharmaceuticals provided input for the design and specifications of the radiochemistry and radiopharmacy laboratories, and procurement of lead-shielded hot cells. Researchers and staff from MBI provided critical input into the overall design of the facilities, as well as specifications for the room housing the MR-PET scanner.
In parallel with the design phase, a tender was initiated for the procurement of the MR-PET scanner, involving representations from the potential suppliers, site visits to Europe and North America to assess technical capabilities, and rigorous assessment and ranking of the tender submissions. The decision to procure the Siemens Biograph mMR scanner was made in July together with the commencement of the facility construction, and delivery and installation of the MR-PET scanner occurred in early December. The scanner installation and acceptance tests were completed in late January 2016.
Construction of the BMTF MR-PET Scanner facilities at MBI was a highly technical and challenging project that was completed only one month behind schedule. The first successful MR-PET scan involving injection of radiopharmaceutical into a human volunteer was completed in February 2016, and a large-scale clinical research project into neuropsychiatric disorders has recently commenced. The timely and successful completion of the project was made possible by the clear vision and support of Monash Executive and Research leadership, a strong effort from the entire team of MBI staff, together with a skilled and hard working team of architects, engineers, builders and trades. The result is a unique world-class facility that will provide opportunities for large animal scientists, as well as clinical researchers, to undertake cutting edge research into neurosciences, as well as translational research into testing and development of biomaterials and medical devices. It is hoped that the facility will allow the scientific research community to engage strongly with industry, to further investment in technology and innovation in Australia.