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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
1-R03-EB025959-01A1 Non-invasive neuroimaging of sirtuin 1 using PET Changning Wang Massachusetts General Hospital
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-R21-EB017568-02 Pilot Human Studies of FMAU PET in Prostate Cancer Hossein Jadvar University of Southern California
5-R21-EB023605-02 Exploring combined hyperpolarized 13C MRI with liver-specific gadolinium contrast agents for improved metabolic assessment of liver tumors Michael Ohliger University of California, San Francisco
5-R21-EB023601-02 Exploring the use of a hydroxypyridinone decorporation agent for the removal of toxic residual gadolinium from MRI contrast agent administration Rebecca Abergel University of Calif-Lawrenc Berkeley Lab
5-R21-EB024998-02 Super-harmonic ultrasonic imaging of the coronary artery Marvin Doyley University of Rochester
1-R41-EB023169-01A1 Biodegradable gold nanoparticles as contrast agents for CT David Cormode Polyaurum, Llc
1-R41-EB027050-01A1 Evaluation of a Novel Infection PET Diagnostic Peter Tonge Chronus Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
1-R43-EB025095-01 Next-generation aptamers for faster, safer, more sensitive in vivo PET imaging Jinpeng Wang Aptitude Medical Systems, Inc.
5-R03-EB025369-02 Iron based T1 MRI contrast agents as alternatives to gadolinium agents Janet Morrow State University of New York at Buffalo