Innovate UK grant awarded to develop Seracam® for image guided surgical oncology

Serac Imaging Systems Limited (“Serac Imaging Systems” or “the Company”), the medtech company developing Seracam®, a portable hybrid gamma-optical camera for medical imaging, and Loughborough University announce that a grant has been awarded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, to Loughborough University to co-fund the development of the camera for image guided surgery.

The aim of the project is to demonstrate proof of concept for intraoperative gamma imaging for sentinel lymph node biopsy and cancer diagnosis. Application of the camera in this new setting has the potential to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare system costs.

The project will be undertaken by researcher Andrew Farnworth and supervised by Dr Sarah Bugby, Lecturer in Physics at Loughborough University; both have been involved in the prior development and testing of the camera. The team will research and design new intraoperative functionality and demonstrate its performance in simulated surgical scenarios in order to create a new imaging tool for surgeons to localise and treat cancers.

Seracam is a highly innovative camera incorporating game-changing molecular imaging technology which has been designed for use at the patient bedside rather than within a nuclear medicine department. Currently, Seracam is in user studies at sites in the US and Malaysia where it is being used in the clinic for small organ imaging ahead of 510(k) registration. In addition, its compact design, lightweight portability, fused image overlay and excellent performance in spatial resolution, make it well suited for imaged guided surgery.  

Intraoperative radioguidance is a surgical technique which uses radiolabelled pharmaceuticals to guide surgeons. One common standard care procedure is sentinel lymph node biopsy, which is used to stage many cancers including breast, melanoma and head and neck, which combined account for more than 85,000 diagnoses annually in the UK. Current practice involves pre-surgical imaging in a nuclear medicine department, followed by intraoperative use of a non-imaging gamma probe which surgeons use to  identify uptake of a radiotracer in the target tissue, which it does by emitting an audible signal. The effectiveness of this approach relies heavily on surgical skill, can be time consuming, and becomes particularly challenging in scenarios with uptake in multiple nodes in close proximity. A portable gamma camera with a variable field of view and accurate anatomical referencing could provide an alternative with greater functionality to surgeons in situ, and has the potential to improve surgical outcomes.  

Mark Rosser, Chief Executive Officer of Serac Imaging Systems said:  “This prestigious Innovate UK grant secured by the experienced and highly skilled team at Loughborough University, will enable us to explore Seracam’s potential as a disruptive technology in a new surgical setting. Improving surgical outcomes is a key driver for this innovation, and this project will enable us to work closely with end-users to modify the camera to meet their precise needs.  Image guided surgery presents a significant opportunity to extend the utility of the camera into a new setting, with the potential to improve patient care, expedite surgical workflow and reduce healthcare system costs.”  

Dr Sarah Bugby, Senior Lecturer in Physics at Loughborough University added: “This co-funding from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, enables us to translate our research in nuclear medicine and gamma imaging outside the laboratory where, combined with Serac Imaging Systems innovative technology, it has the potential to benefit a wide range of patients. Identifying and developing the required modifications to complement the existing robust optical-gamma registration and portability, will be key for intraoperative use, and we are looking forward to collaborating on novel surgical use cases.”