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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-R43-EB025095-01 Next-generation aptamers for faster, safer, more sensitive in vivo PET imaging Jinpeng Wang Aptitude Medical Systems, Inc.
5-R21-EB024998-02 Super-harmonic ultrasonic imaging of the coronary artery Marvin Doyley University of Rochester
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-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-EB017568-02 Pilot Human Studies of FMAU PET in Prostate Cancer Hossein Jadvar University of Southern California
1-R15-EB026208-01 Optimization of aminolevulinic acid-protoporphyrin IX for fluorescence-guided tumor resection and treatment Bin Chen University of The Sciences Philadelphia
1-R03-EB025959-01A1 Non-invasive neuroimaging of sirtuin 1 using PET Changning Wang Massachusetts General Hospital
5-R03-EB025369-02 Iron based T1 MRI contrast agents as alternatives to gadolinium agents Janet Morrow State University of New York at Buffalo
5-R01-EB025741-02 Improved Detection of Prostate Cancer with Nanoparticle-based Ultrasound Contrast Agents Targeted to PSMA Agata Exner Case Western Reserve University
1-F32-EB024379-01A1 SUPR peptides for tumor glycosylated MUC1 imaging Brian Engel University of Tx Md Anderson Can Ctr