Simon R. Cherry, PhD, Receives 2022 Benedict Cassen Prize for Research in Molecular Imaging

June 13, 2022

Reston, VA — Simon R. Cherry, PhD, known for his pioneering work in the development of PET technology and co-development of the EXPLORER total-body PET/CT scanner, was awarded the Benedict Cassen Prize during the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging 2022 Annual Meeting. This honor is awarded every two years by the Education and Research Foundation (ERF) for Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging in recognition of outstanding achievement and work leading to a major advance in nuclear medicine science.

“Dr. Cherry has dedicated his whole career to advancing molecular imaging,” said ERF President Munir Ghesani, MD, FACNM, FACR. “This award is a wonderful recognition of his seminal contributions to nuclear medicine instrumentation and molecular imaging generally, including his pioneering advancement of small-animal PET, PET/MRI hybrid imaging, and total-body PET.”

During a special plenary session at SNMMI’s Annual Meeting, Cherry presented the Cassen Lectureship titled “A Matter of Time.” In the lecture, he discussed time and its role in nuclear medicine, from historical developments occurring over decades to technologies that can detect photons with a precision of tens of picoseconds. 

“It is a tremendous honor to receive the Benedict Cassen Prize,” Cherry commented. “In our quest to develop much more sensitive PET systems, we hope to improve our understanding of the human body, in both health and disease, and open up future applications for the field of molecular imaging, while at the same time improving diagnosis and disease management for patients today. These new systems that are being developed by us and others are the logical and ultimate manifestation of Benedict Cassen’s pioneering work on organ and body imaging, and it is therefore particularly meaningful to receive an award named after him.”

Cherry received his Bachelor of Science degree in physics and astronomy from University College London in 1986 and his doctorate degree in medical physics from the Institute of Cancer Research at the University of London in 1989. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), he joined the faculty in the UCLA Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology in 1993. In 2001, Cherry joined the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) as a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and established the Center for Molecular and Genomic Imaging, which he directed from 2004 to 2016. Cherry served as chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UC Davis from 2007 to 2009 and is currently a Distinguished Professor at UC Davis. He is a co-leader of the EXPLORER project with Dr. Ramsey Badawi.

Cherry is a founding member of the Society for Molecular Imaging (now the World Molecular Imaging Society) and an elected fellow of six professional societies, including the Institute for Electronic and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) and the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES). He received the Academy of Molecular Imaging Distinguished Basic Scientist Award (2007), the Society for Molecular Imaging Achievement Award (2011) and the IEEE Marie Sklodowska-Curie Award (2016). In 2016, he was elected member of the National Academy of Engineering, and in 2017 he was elected to the National Academy of Inventors. Cherry has authored more than three hundred peer-reviewed journal articles, review articles and book chapters in the field of biomedical imaging. He is also lead author of the widely used textbook Physics in Nuclear Medicine.

The Cassen Prize honors Benedict Cassen, whose invention of the rectilinear radioisotope scanner—the first instrument capable of making an image of radiotracer distribution in body organs of living patients—was seminal to the development of clinical nuclear medicine. Cherry is the 16th individual to receive this prestigious $25,000 award from the Education and Research Foundation for Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging since 1994.


About the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) is an international scientific and medical organization dedicated to advancing nuclear medicine and molecular imaging, vital elements of precision medicine that allow diagnosis and treatment to be tailored to individual patients in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.

SNMMI’s members set the standard for molecular imaging and nuclear medicine practice by creating guidelines, sharing information through journals and meetings and leading advocacy on key issues that affect molecular imaging and therapy research and practice. For more information, visit