Next generation x-ray contrast agents

Computed tomography (CT) is the lowest cost and most widely available medical imaging modality available in hospital settings throughout the world. Current CT contrast agents used to visualise blood vessels are not targeted and are quickly washed-out via the kidneys, however, their use is crucial in angiography and venography for indications such as stroke.  The advent of targeted CT contrast agents will allow for a significant increase in the number of disease indications which can be diagnosed by CT reducing reliance on alternative high-cost and lower access imaging modalities such as MRI, PET and SPECT.

CT Contrast – The story so far

CT Contrast is most commonly provided by injection of iodine-containing chemicals which increase the visibility (contrast enhancement) of blood as they flow through the circularity system. This type of imaging is the gold standard for many angiography and venography based studies and as a result, the 2015 contrast media market was valued at US$4.21 billion and forecast to grow with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.2% to US$5.17 billion by 2020.

Improving access to targeted medical imaging

Imaging modalities such as positron emission tomography (PET) provide access to disease targeted imaging agent for the imaging of specific cancers or neurological diseases. Currently, no such agents exist for CT contrast.

Oxford researchers have developed an approach to CT contrast which rapidly creates peptides containing sufficient quantities of iodine to facilitate imaging studies. Proof-of-concept work has been conducted in osteoarthritis, but the same techniques are applicable to a wide range of indications which can be targeted by peptide-based imaging, including cancers.

Since CT does not suffer the same cost implications as imaging with MRI, PET and SPECT and because scanner access is significantly more common place, targeted CT contrast using iodinated peptides could be a game changer in the clinical management of huge numbers of patients.


Oxford University Innovation has filed a patent with scope for international protection of a broad scope of radiopaque peptides and compounds. Commercial partners with an interest in licensing this technology or partnering for further clinical development are currently sought.

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