Ultrasound (US) imaging is the most widely used imaging modality in the clinic- it is safe, cheap, easy-to-use, does not use radiation or radioactive tracers, and it gives real time information. However, current US contrast agents are not suitable for application in advanced imaging, as these agents are too large and too unstable to provide specific contrast in lesions with “leaky” vessels (EPR effect), such as malignant cancer and unstable atherosclerotic plaques. Thus, the use of US in clinical diagnostic workflows in oncological and cardiovascular imaging is very limited. Due to these shortcomings, current clinical practice is not to choose, but rather to combine multiple imaging modalities to compensate for the shortcomings of one modality with the strengths of another. This results in overly complex and expensive workflows with unnecessary burden to patients.
CONQUEST nanoparticles enable the use of US for advanced imaging; these nanoparticles are of the right size to accumulate in lesions with “leaky” vessels, provide excellent and stable contrast for US imaging and can readily be modified to include contrast for other imaging modalities. These unique properties will bring US to the forefront of imaging in areas currently dominated by more expensive, more difficult and slower imaging modalities such as MRI and CT. This novel nanoparticle technology, providing unique multimodal imaging contrast, will create a revolution in diagnostic imaging. First clinical testing will be done this year with GMP-grade particles. The technology is protected with several patents.
Our first product is sonoQUEST, a nanoparticle optimised for imaging with US and fluorescence, in diagnoses of focal liver lesions. The global market for this application is about 10 million procedures in 2015, with an annual growth rate of 12%. sonoQUEST will overcome the need for multiple different scans and different contrast agent applications, and allow onsite confirmation of accurate biopsy samples. This will significantly improve diagnostic accuracy, patient safety and time-to-diagnosis while reducing imaging costs for this specific application by approximately 50%. This is in-line with ongoing budget restraints in hospital and reimbursements, and the desire to personalize medicine.
Subsequent products in the CONQUEST pipeline will broaden its application in medical imaging, improving diagnostic workflows that routinely involve US, MRI and biopsy, such as in breast and prostate cancer screening. In the long run, new variants will be developed for high-end applications, such as cell therapy or targeted drug delivery, to enable true personalised medicine using existing clinical imaging modalities. Research and veterinary products are also envisioned. For focal liver lesions alone, we expect an annual revenue of €13.5 million in 2021, which will be further increased by at least one order of magnitude with the subsequent new applications and products.