A $1 million Queensland Government Research Industry Partnership Program (RIPP) grant has enabled University of Queensland magnetic resonance imaging start-up, Magnetica Limited, to release an Information Memorandum and seek grant-matching investment.

As a project partner, UQ will receive funding to conduct important R&D aimed at developing the next generation of MRI magnets.

This project will mark another milestone in the successful translation of intellectual property originating from UQ’s Centre for Magnetic Resonance (now the Centre for Advanced Imaging) and the Biomedical Engineering Group within the School of IT and Electrical Engineering.

UniQuest, the University’s main commercialisation company, has played a key role in supporting the researchers’ efforts to transfer their original ideas from the lab to the latest in superconducting magnets, other subsystems and software for the worldwide human magnetic resonance imaging market, which is worth more than $4.5 billion annually.

For over two decades, UQ’s world leading MRI research has been adopted by industry and almost two thirds of the high-field MRI machines today include UQ intellectual property. It has been a self-reinforcing system, with royalties from these products funding further research to generate new breakthroughs, according to UniQuest Managing Director David Henderson.

“This new capital raising venture takes another step along what has been an exciting journey involving a full gambit of commercialisation options, including licences, start-ups, exits, buy-outs and industry partnerships,” Mr Henderson said.

“But most importantly, commercialising UQ MRI inventions has led to improved patient outcomes all round the world.”

The first MRI innovation to be commercialised was a method of correcting magnetic field distortions to produce a clearer image, which was licensed to Siemens and GE Healthcare. Two start-up companies relating to the original work from CMR followed.

Spin Systems was established in 1995 to manufacture MRI components based on CMR designs. In 2006, US firm Supertron Technologies acquired SpinSystems. The merged entity, now named m2m Imaging Corporation, has headquarters in the US with manufacturing and R&D facilities in both Brisbane and Ohio.

The other startup, Magnetica, was established in 2004 and has raised over $10 million from investors and $2 million in government grants to date.

Magnetica’s magnet designs are based on UQ research and are manufactured in Japan via a strategic partnership with Japan Superconductor Technology, Inc. (Jastec), a subsidiary of multinational Kobe Steel. Magnets built include a prototype large, very high-field whole-body magnet and a smaller 1.5T extremity magnet, which is being sold by GE globally.

A Queensland Government National and International Research Alliances Program (NIRAP) grant supported a collaboration with Jastec to develop the extremity magnet. The magnet is now used in systems across the world, with the super efficiency, advanced imaging capability and patient comfort features expected to increase demand significantly.

The Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation’s support (QCIF) and advanced computational analysis have also factored significantly in Magnetica’s product development capability.

“Magnetica’s continued development highlights the range of benefits commercialisation can bring to the University,” said Mr Henderson.

“As well as the product revenue returns and reputational recognition for innovation, UQ has contracted its human and technical resources to Magnetica, which brings in an additional source of research funding.

“With the Smart Futures Fund RIPP grant, the matched investor funds and the revenues of its current product, Magnetica can focus on developing its next generation extremity magnet, which is intended for commercialisation by a major systems integrator.”

Key milestones

  • Licences to GE and Siemens generate significant research funds to support MRI research
  • UQ MRI technology now used in 2/3 of all high field MRI magnets
  • SpinSystems established in 1995, to manufacture and export MRI components
  • Magnetica Limited established in 2004, raising $4 million
  • Magnetica named 2006 ‘Rising Star’ in the Queensland Premier’s Smart Awards
  • Supertron Technologies purchased SpinSystems in 2006: merged entity renamed m2m Imaging Corporation
  • Magnetica extremity MRI magnets in full production in Japan under supply contract to GE Healthcare
  • Magnetica total funds raised and grants exceeds $12 million since December 2004

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