By CHRISTOPHER SCHOBERT
Published September 22, 2023
The Imaging Research Symposium, convened on Sept. 7 by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s (CTSI) Center for Biomedical Imaging (CBI), featured a packed house at the Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) on the Downtown Campus. The morning session included presentations and discussions devoted to UB’s new Philips MR 7700 3-Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, while the afternoon session focused on the strength and purpose of the university’s imaging community.
It was a day for CBI and UB leadership, Philips representatives and researchers from across UB to come together and ponder not just the importance of the new scanner, but also the impact imaging is having now — and will have in the future — on clinical and translational research and on health disparities in Western New York.
“Biomedical imaging is playing a revolutionary role in medical research in recent decades,” said Robert Zivadinov, director of the CBI and SUNY Distinguished Professor of neurology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. “This instrument is going to contribute significantly to putting UB in the top 25 research universities in the United States.”
In his welcome remarks, Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development and SUNY Distinguished Professor of computer science and engineering, discussed the university’s substantial financial investment in acquiring state-of-the-art research equipment, such as the scanner. Cutting-edge instruments, he explained, will encourage interdisciplinary research and help “solve major societal challenges.”
Allison Brashear, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, touched on the eye-opening history of MRI research, including its links to SUNY. Brashear sees UB’s investment in the Philips scanner as “making a clear statement to the global academic community, as well as to UB researchers, about [the university’s] long-range commitment to using imaging technology to achieve innovative clinical results.”
In addition, Brashear encouraged researchers from all disciplines to learn how they can utilize imaging science to advance and enrich their work.
That statement was echoed by CTSI Director Timothy Murphy, SUNY Distinguished Professor and senior associate dean for clinical and translational research in the Jacobs School. He outlined why “imaging has become an essential tool for translational researchers to study a broad array of human disorders” and urged investigators to reach out to CBI staff and explore incorporating imaging into their research projects.
“This is the first advanced, fully research-dedicated scanner in Western New York,” Zivadinov noted. “It is not just going to acquire images — it is also going to do analysis of them.” During his remarks, Zivadinov discussed how the device will have a great impact on UB’s grant applications, and how it will assist in the recruitment of new faculty, as well.
Several members of the Philips team journeyed to Buffalo for the symposium, including Tammie Rupnik, head of imaging; Alan Huang, MR market leader; Neil Palmer, 3.0T business marketing manager; and Brian Welch, head of clinical science.
Rupnik said UB is one of the first research organizations to adopt this new Philips technology, which uses artificial intelligence and synthetic MRI. She shared her belief that the research conducted in Buffalo will change the world. “It starts in Buffalo, but this can have global impact,” she said.
“This is incredibly important work,” Huang added. “Imagine the breakthroughs we can accomplish together.”
Palmer outlined the technical details of the MR 7700, which he said is able to analyze the entire body, not just the brain, and is designed to offer consistent results for researchers. “This is the James Webb Telescope for MR,” he explained.
Welch highlighted the ways in which the scanner offers a more comfortable experience for patients, and in much less time. “If we can scan faster and reduce the need for repeated exams, the better we are going to do,” he said.
The afternoon session, titled “Framing the Future Together: UB's Imaging Community Takes Center Stage,” was designed to “showcase the diversity of our imaging community,” said CBI Technical Director Ferdinand Schweser, associate professor of neurology, biomedical engineering, and radiology in the Jacobs School.
The session featured an exploration of the CBI’s imaging tools; a look at the UB-IMAGINE Initiative; and a moderated “speed overview” of UB’s imaging landscape. It also included a roundtable discussion, “Force of Collaboration,” featuring Murphy, other UB faculty and Brian Welch, Philips’ North American clinical science leader.
The symposium concluded with parallel events: a poster session in the CTRC atrium and an open house at the CBI, located on the seventh floor of the CTRC.