AUBURN – Auburn University and Siemens Medical Solutions USA, Inc. have announced the signing of a master research agreement for the establishment of the Auburn University Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Research Center. The center, to be constructed in the Auburn University Research Park, brings together Auburn’s expertise in the areas of engineering, science, and pharmaceutics with Siemens’ expertise in magnetic resonance imaging.
The alliance with Siemens, one of the world’s largest suppliers to the healthcare industry, will advance Auburn University to the forefront of biomedical engineering and has the potential to bring lifesaving technologies to the citizens of Alabama and the region. Examples of current and potential areas of MRI-related research include cognitive neuroscience, metabolic imaging, and pharmaceuticals, as well as research into diabetes and heart disease.
“This effort supports Alabama’s goal of becoming known as a key state in advancing the biomedical frontier,” said Auburn University President Jay Gogue. “We believe that this collaboration sets an example and establishes a precedent on which programs between Auburn University and other institutions, both private and public, can build to strengthen Alabama’s future.”
The first phase of this center involves the location of Siemens 7 Tesla (T) Investigational Device and 3T MRI scanners in a newly constructed facility in the Auburn University Research Park. MRI scanners are classified by the strength of the magnet used for imaging. It is believed that stronger magnets can result in shorter scan times and finer anatomic detail. The 3T open bore scanner contains the strongest magnet certified for clinical diagnostic use and will see clinical and research use.
The 7T scanner, now in the research and development stage, is not yet cleared by the FDA for commercial distribution. The 7T scanner is considered to be the next generation of MRI scanner for cutting-edge research and believed to allow unprecedented insight into how the human body is structured and how it works. Auburn faculty in engineering, science and pharmaceutics will solely direct the research needed to bring the benefits of 7T MRI to the general population. The Auburn unit will be the first actively shielded whole body 7T MRI scanner in the world.
The Auburn University MRI Research Center represents the first step in a broader initiative designed to bring together Alabama’s intellectual and business capital to create a unique resource for the state. Plans include collaborative efforts with East Alabama Medical Center, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and other medical institutions, as well as Central South University in China.
“This collaboration will provide a research platform of the highest level,” says Heinrich Kolem, president and CEO, Siemens Medical Solutions USA, Inc. “We believe this alliance will result in improvements in health, education and economic growth for the state of Alabama and the nation.”
In today’s high-tech economy, the correlation between a state’s economic well-being and the strength of its research and development (R&D) capabilities is well documented. It is not surprising that most states consider their universities to be critical components of their intellectual infrastructure. A recent report found that of the top 30 high-technology metropolitan areas, 29 were home to or within close proximity of a major research university. The importance of R&D capacity to the economic prosperity of a state and nation is predicted to increase in the coming century. The proposed Auburn Magnetic Resonance Imaging Research Center is designed to address this reality.
“This center leverages the research and technology development at both Auburn University and Siemens to maintain a competitive lead in R&D, as well as the public funding and private investment that follows,” says Larry Benefield, dean of Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “MRI holds great promise for the early detection of some insidious diseases and the role it can play in establishing effective treatment protocols.”
Imaging technologies developed at the Auburn University MRI Research Center will be made available to the School of Medicine at UAB and other medical schools for use in clinical trials. Commercialization of newly developed technologies will support expansion of the center’s capability and increase its impact in the R&D arena.
“The MRI Research Center and the supporting alliances it will generate are prime examples of how state funds can be invested and state educational institutions collaborate with the private sector to develop a world-class research center to advance science and technology, improving quality of life in the global community and promoting economic development for the state of Alabama,” concludes Benefield.