MR contrast firm seeks partners

February 13, 1991

Metasyn, a start-up contrast agent developer, signed a licensingarrangement last month with Massachusetts General Hospital, whichgives it the option for exclusive rights to a unique magneticresonance contrast technology under development at MGH since

Metasyn, a start-up contrast agent developer, signed a licensingarrangement last month with Massachusetts General Hospital, whichgives it the option for exclusive rights to a unique magneticresonance contrast technology under development at MGH since 1983.The Boston firm is discussing co-development possibilities withseveral larger corporate partners, said Dr. Randall B. Lauffer,chairman and chief scientific officer.

Lauffer is director of the NMR Contrast Media Laboratory ofMGH, where he was responsible for development of the contrasttechnology. Metasyn was incorporated a year ago, at about thetime two related patents were issued to MGH. The firm has beennegotiating licenses with the university since then. Metasynheld off seeking financing and co-development arrangements untilthe licenses were in hand, Lauffer said.

Initial agents under development by Metasyn will target hepatobiliary(liver, gallbladder and small intestine) cancer and cardiovascularblood-flow applications. These two agents will most likely utilizegadolinium, but in a different way than existing MRI contrastproducts, he said.

The key to the MGH technology is an organic chelator that bindsthe metal ion to specific proteins in the body. This binding activatesa magnetic effect that enhances the MRI signal. In the case ofthe blood flow agent, the chelator is designed to bind to humanserum albumin, the dominant protein in the blood serum.

"This is a new type of imaging agent," Lauffer explained."It has an effect on the (MR) image depending on whetherit is bound--in a molecular sense--or not."

All types of existing imaging agents, including those usedin nuclear, x-ray and MR imaging, depend on concentration alone,he said. If there is a lot of uptake in a particular organ, theorgan is enhanced on the image.

"With this agent, you don't need a tremendous amount ofuptake. You only need the specific binding event. If one tissuehas the protein and another does not, that one tissue will havea higher signal intensity," he said.

The chelator also binds in a reversible manner, so that theagent functions only for the desired length of time, Lauffer said.Reversibility of binding is crucial so that the gadolinium canbe released and not taken by the proteins into areas of the bodywhere it might have harmful effects, he said.