UT and Siemens Partner on New $4M Research Facility

KNOXVILLE – A partnership between the University of Tennessee-s College of Engineering and Siemens Medical Solutions Molecular Imaging (SMSMI) will spur new developments in technology while helping to contribute to Knoxville-s growing profile as a hub for innovation.

The $4 million Scintillation Materials Research Center (SMRC), to be located on UT’s campus, will serve as a focal point to develop state-of-the-art materials for use in applications ranging from early cancer detection to homeland security. Siemens, a global leader in the field of medical imaging, is donating $3.5 million in equipment and operating funds.

Chuck Melcher, SMRC director, noted the importance of scintillation materials in devices that impact the lives of thousands of people each day.

“History has demonstrated that major advances in the diagnostic power of medical imaging systems such as PET/CT and X-Ray CT are linked to the scintillation materials that they use,” he said. “As evidenced by their combined commitment, both Siemens and UT see the potential for the center to lead the way in the research and development of the next generation of these materials.”

In addition to providing unique research opportunities for UT engineering students, the SMRC’s location at UT will bring new ideas from research to market through spin-offs and continued public-private partnerships. SMRC is expected to be operational at UT by early summer.

UT-s connection to Siemens begins with a company founded in 1983 by four alumni of UT-s College of Engineering, CTI Molecular Imaging (CTI). After winning Time Magazine-s “Medical Invention of the Year” award in 2000 and introducing their proprietary LSO scintillator technology to medical imaging, CTI embarked in 2003 on a number of joint research projects with faculty in the college to expand research in scintillation materials. They also utilized some of the unique facilities located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It was the success of these collaborations that led to the formation of the new research center, said company officials.

“SMSMI is proud to be working with the Scintillation Materials Research Center at UT’s College of Engineering,” said Michael Reitermann, SMSMI president. “The SMRC represents an exciting new collaboration between researchers in the academic and industrial worlds. Leadership in scintillation materials is a hallmark of both East Tennessee and of Siemens, and we believe the SMRC will extend this leadership position.”

Chancellor Loren Crabtree said the public-private partnership will serve as a platform for new discoveries as well as economic development opportunities.

“We are very grateful for the longstanding interest in UT through alumnus Ron Nutt and the founders of CTI,” Crabtree said. “The continued involvement from Siemens — since the company’s purchase of CTI — provides us with enhanced opportunities for growth and collaboration that will benefit the college, the university and this region for many years to come.”

CTI and Siemens Medical Solutions merged in 2005, forming SMSMI, and announcing their intention to stay here in Knoxville to take advantage of the strong partnerships developed by CTI.

Wayne Davis, the associate dean for research in UT’s College of Engineering envisions the SMRC as a groundbreaking example of cooperative partnerships between industry and the university.

“We are developing synergistic relationships with a number of corporations and industries to further the advancement of science,” said Davis. “We are particularly excited about the opportunity to collaborate with Siemens and the impact that this has on the economy of East Tennessee.”

The facility will be located in the Science and Engineering Research Facility on UT’s campus, and will house some of the most advanced equipment in the field of scintillation research.

According to Melcher, the materials developed in the SMRC’s laboratories will serve as the “film” in sophisticated medical imaging “cameras” that are used for early detection of diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer-s.

Beyond medical applications, though, the materials developed at the SMRC will have applications in fields such as homeland security and advanced scientific research like that done at ORNL’s new Spallation Neutron Source.

This new project marks the company’s second research venture with UT. In 2003, the company established the Cancer Imaging and Tracer Development Research Program (CITDRP) with the Graduate School of Medicine, a world class center for translational research using molecular imaging.

For more information on the new SMRC, visit http://www.engr.utk.edu/smrc.

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Contacts:

Jay Mayfield, media relations (865-974-9409)
Kim Cowart, engineering communications (865-974-0686)
Chuck Melcher, SMRC director (865-974-0254)

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