Ellison, Scott and Sanford Receive SNMMI Mars Shot Fund Award

June 12, 2023

Reston, Virginia—The SNMMI Mars Shot Research Fund is excited to announce that Paul Ellison, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison (principal investigator); Peter J. H. Scott, PhD, associate professor of radiology at the University of Michigan (co-principal investigator); and Melanie S. Sanford, PhD, professor of chemistry, University of Michigan (co-principal investigator) have been selected as the recipients of a $500,000 grant from the 2023 Mars Shot Fund. The grants recognize individuals who have made transformative impact in the field and elevated the value of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging.

The grant is one of five awarded in the inaugural year of the new SNMMI Mars Shot Research Fund, which was established to provide resources that translate visionary nuclear medicine imaging, radiopharmaceutical therapy and data science research or projects into tools or treatments that will help improve the lives of patients.

The Mars Shot grant was awarded based on the proposal, “Modernizing radiobromine: improved radiohalogenation methodologies for translating 76/77Br theranostics.”

Theranostic radiopharmaceuticals select and stratify patients, quantifying dosimetry from non-invasive positron emission tomography (PET) imaging and delivering treatment with a chemically matched therapeutic analogue. There has been considerable success in labeling larger molecules using a suitable chelating group and appropriate diagnostic or therapeutic radiometal nuclide; however, many small-molecule biological targeting vectors are incompatible with radiometal labeling strategies due to changes in biological activity resulting from the addition of a bulky, charged metal-chelator moiety.

“To fully harness the power of cancer theranostics, there is an urgent need for theranostic pairs of radionuclides appropriate for labeling small molecules that cannot be labeled via radiometal chelation,” Ellison said. “The long-term goal and ‘Mars Shot’ of this work is to develop Br as a true theranostic pair of radionuclides that will rapidly enable development of small molecule cancer theranostics. Proof-of-concept will be demonstrated for norepinephrine transporter avid agents for neuroendocrine tumors, but the technology is also appropriate for labeling radiopharmaceuticals specific to PSMA, FAPI, CXCR4 and the host of new molecular targets that will undoubtedly emerge, accelerating the development of theranostics for other cancers in the future and benefitting a range of industrial and academic researchers.”

Ellison is a medical physicist whose interests utilize the principles and techniques of nuclear and radiochemistry to address challenges in the field of nuclear medicine. As an undergraduate student, he performed research modeling the biokinetic pathways of folding proteins. He pursued his doctorate at the Department of Chemistry, University of California–Berkeley, specializing in nuclear chemistry. As a postdoctoral researcher, he joined the field of medical physics at the University of Wisconsin, becoming heavily involved with the field of medical isotope production and radiochemistry. Since 2020, he has been an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Physics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Scott is an associate professor of radiology at the University of Michigan, as well as director of the PET Center and a member of the Interdepartmental Program in Medicinal Chemistry. Scott's group is involved in all aspects of radiopharmaceutical sciences, including developing new methods for radiolabeling bioactive molecules, design and synthesis of new radiotracers for PET imaging of CNS disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, and cGMP radiopharmaceutical manufacture. Scott is widely published and is listed as an inventor on multiple patents.

Sanford is the Moses Gomberg Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan. She is a Fellow for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. She has served as an executive editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society since 2021, having been an associate editor of the since 2014.

Modernizing radiobromine: improved radiohalogenation methodologies for translating 76/77Br theranostics,” Paul A. Ellison, University of Wisconsin (Principal Investigator); Peter J. H. Scott, University of Michigan (Co-principal Investigator); Melanie S. Sanford, University of Michigan (Co-principal Investigator). Co-Investigators: Jonathan W. Engle, (University of Wisconsin); Allen F. Brooks (University of Michigan).


About the SNMMI Mars Shot Research Fund

The ‘Mars Shot for Nuclear Medicine, Molecular Imaging, and Molecularly Targeted Radiopharmaceutical Therapy’ is a forward-looking glimpse into the future of nuclear medicine. Its goal is to provide resources for the translation of visionary nuclear medicine imaging, radiopharmaceutical therapy, and data science research or projects into tools or treatments helping improve the lives of patients.

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 www.snmmi.org.