Molecular Probes and Imaging Agents

This program supports development and biomedical application of molecular probes and imaging agents across all imaging modalities for the visualization, characterization and quantification of normal biological and pathophysiological processes and anatomy in living organisms at the molecular, cellular and organ levels.


The emphasis is on engineering of targeting and responsive molecular probes of high sensitivity and specificity for PET and SPECT (radiotracers), MR (T1, T2, CEST, hyperpolarized agents), EPR, CT, optical (fluorescent and bioluminescent probes), ultrasound (microbubbles) and photoacoustic imaging.  The imaging agents may be based on nano- and micro-particles, liposomes, dendrimers, proteins, small organic and inorganic molecules etc., and detectable by one or more imaging modalities.  Imaging agent development through methodologies such as chemical synthesis, biological mutagenesis, microfabrication, etc., may be pursued with an intent of leading to in vivo biomedical application.


The goal of this program is to generate robust molecular probes, imaging agents and platforms for biomedical application across all disease areas to facilitate diagnostics and improve understanding of disease state, progression, and therapeutic response.

Additional emphasis

This program also supports the development of other imaging agents, for example:

  • multimodal molecular probes (PET/MRI, PET/fluorescent, etc.)
  • imaging reporter genes and reporter gene/imaging probe duos
  • molecular probes as part of theranostic systems or biosensors
  • imaging agents for cell labelling and in vivo tracking
  • molecular probes for image-guided interventions


The following related scientific areas are supported by other NIBIB programs:

Grant Number Project Title Principal Investigator Institution
5-R01-EB020415-04 Neuronal Imaging using Fluorescent Sensors for Neurotransmitters Timothy Glass University of Missouri-Columbia
1-R15-EB026208-01 Optimization of aminolevulinic acid-protoporphyrin IX for fluorescence-guided tumor resection and treatment Bin Chen University of The Sciences Philadelphia
5-R01-EB026285-02 Generation of highly selective activity based probes using chemically modified phage Matthew Bogyo Stanford University
5-R01-EB025985-02 Development of 11C-PABA as a bacteria-specific imaging agent for spinal infections David Wilson University of California, San Francisco
5-R01-EB022596-03 Nanoscintillator-based X-ray sensitizers to enable efficient NSCLC treatment with X-ray irradiation Jin Xie University of Georgia
5-R01-EB024015-03 Compositions and methods for enhanced fluorine-19 magnetic resonance imaging cell tracking Eric Ahrens University of California, San Diego
5-R01-EB026332-02 Staphylococcus serine hydrolases as targets for therapeutic and imaging contrast agents Matthew Bogyo Stanford University
5-R03-EB025903-02 Charge driven contrast enhanced computed tomography for imaging negatively charged tissues Ambika Bajpayee Northeastern University
5-R01-EB021708-04 Designing group specific PET ligands for mGluR2 Anna-Liisa Brownell Massachusetts General Hospital
5-R01-EB025207-02 Development of a translational imaging tool as a predictive biomarker for anti-PD-1/PD-L1 immunotherapies Michael Evans University of California, San Francisco