2018 Distinguished Investigators2020-02-18T09:55:03-05:00

2018 Distinguished Investigators

The Academy for Radiology & Biomedical Imaging Research is pleased to announce that 42 researchers have been selected to receive the Academy’s 2018 Distinguished Investigator Award. This prestigious honor recognizes individuals for their accomplishments in the field of medical imaging. Please join us in congratulating the following individuals:


Dr. Achilefu is renowned for his pioneering work on near infrared fluorescent (NIR) molecular imaging of cancer and other diseases in small animals and human patients. He was the first investigator to demonstrate the use of peptide-based cancer-targeted NIR molecular probes for whole-body imaging of cancer in mice. He also discovered a new molecule that synergistically interacts and reports the functional status of tumors. Dr. Achilefu also conceived and developed a novel wearable goggle­based imaging system for guiding surgical removal of tumors by instantly displaying fluorescent light from cancer cells in the wearable eyepiece. Recently, he discovered a novel theranostic approach that uses radiopharmaceuticals to image cancer and stimulate photosensitizers for cancer therapy.
Dr. Benzinger’s research career has been related to advanced imaging. Her work on amyloid structure remains one of the most highly cited manuscripts in the field. During radiology residency she shifted focus to advanced MRI which resulted in her publication in Neurolmage in 2011 which demonstrated that advanced MR diffusion analyses could distinguish demyelination from axonal injury. Her 2013 publication in PNAS, demonstrated regional pathological trajectories for amyloid accumulation, brain atrophy, and hypometabolism in autosomal dominant Alzheimer disease, which is extended with longitudinal data, currently in press at Lancet Neurology.
Dr. Chang has been the sole principal investigator of three NIH grants (two R01, one K23) totaling nearly $6 million. His research focuses on the clinical translation of advanced, quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and image processing methods (7T, micro-MRI, topological and finite element analyses) to permit earlier diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disease. Three recent publications in Radiology provide evidence for the clinical value and cost-effectiveness of these advanced methods with regards to improving clinicians’ ability to accurately diagnose and manage osteoporosis, which affects 10 million Americans.
Dr. Christine Chung’s research activities are primarily focused on the noninvasive characterization of musculoskeletal tissue with MR imaging, establishing MR biomarkers for tissue structure and function. Her research has resulted in the development and implementation of MR pulse sequences that offer contrast mechanisms that optimize morphologic and quantitative evaluation of musculoskeletal tissues. She has a career publication record of 189 peer reviewed works, with landmark publications for her MR biomarkers research in specialty journals such as the Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Radiology.
Dr. Dahl has contributed important scientific and technical developments in the field of ultrasound imaging. He is most notable for his co-development of coherence beamforming to improve image quality in difficult-to-image patients. He has contributed important analyses of noise sources in ultrasound imaging; specifically, elucidating the roles of aberration and reverberation on image quality, which was awarded the 2011 Outstanding Paper Award by the IEEE Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control Society. He is also a key contributor to the clinical translation of shear wave technology through the development of parallel tracking.
Dr. DeYoe has been a leader and major contributor to the field of brain imaging and visual neuroscience beginning with his seminal 1985 Nature paper revealing a new level of functional organization in visual cortex that subsequently led to a major revision in our understanding of brain connectivity. He extended this early work in monkeys to humans through pioneering efforts to develop and apply functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to the study of the neurophysiological basis of vision. He then adapted this approach to the study of visual spatial attention which for the first time made it possible to objectively and quantitatively study wholly mental phenomena in humans. Extending and refining this approach over the ensuing years led to the creation of computerized computational models that permit the detailed prediction of brain activity patterns evoked by sensory stimulation and the concomitant, ever-present, effects of volitionally controlled attention. Moreover, this seminal academic research resulted in the spin-off of imaging algorithms and software that have been translated into clinical applications for guiding brain surgery and diagnosing brain related vision pathologies via products offered by Prism Clinical Imaging, Inc.
Dr. Donahue is a leader in the development and applications of advanced MRI imaging methods for deriving quantitative physiological information about brain function, including non-invasive measurements of brain blood flow, oxygenation, cerebrovascular reserve metabolism and neural activity. He has developed translational applications of imaging biomarkers in several clinical disorders, including vascular diseases, sickle cell disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. More recently he has also pioneered the development of MRI studies of lymphatic disorders using quantitative measurements of lymph flow and sodium imaging. His techniques have been adopted in several clinical applications as standard-of-care methods in the USA and internationally.

Dr. Duong’s translational research programs focus on the development and application of novel MRI methods in animals and humans to improve health. Dr. Duong has contributed to the better understanding the spatial specificity and signal sources of fMRI methods to map brain function, novel imaging methods to detect retinal diseases in the early stages, prior to the onset of clinical symptoms, and longitudinally monitor disease progression and treatment responses, and novel imaging methods to detect stroke early, distinguish salvageable versus non-salvageable tissue, longitudinally monitor ischemic progression and treatment responses. His research has the potential to improve treatment outcomes and quality of life.

Dr. San Jose Estepar academic career has revolved around the development of computational imaging techniques for a wide range of applications. He started his career developing technologies for the reconstruction of 3D ultrasound from freehand approaches that enable image-guided applications like ones that are routinely performed in our AMIGO suite. After working in the field of diffusion tensor imaging and imaged-guided laparoscopic and endoscopic interventions, he has established an imaging program for the phenotyping of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). His laboratory is part of multiple large studies of COPD, and he has developed novel biomarkers. In particular, he has pioneered the use of non-contrast CT images for phenotyping pulmonary vascular disease (PVD). More recently, he has focused on the harmonization of CT scans for multicenter studies. These techniques may unleash the use of imaging as a surrogate end-point in clinical and pharmaceutical trials.
Most recently over the last 10 years, Dr. Gambhir and his lab has been developing novel nanotechnologies as well as strategies for early cancer detection that are based on numerous technologies including Raman optical and photoacoustic molecular imaging. They have also started to integrate mathematical modeling into studying cancer biology so as to inform the needed experiments and use the experiments to improve the models. These approaches are also being translated for clinical applications of early cancer detection and hold significant promise for future cost-effective management of cancer patients.
Dr. Grabowski’s research has focused on functional and structural imaging investigations of memory and language in clinical populations. His work has contributed to the understanding of the neural basis of lexical retrieval, including the seminal discovery that the retrieval of words for concrete entities engages different sectors of the left extrasylvian temporal lobe. He applies advanced fMRI and diffusion MRI approaches to identify preclinical biomarkers of neurodegenerative disease including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and latent disease detection. His group has contributed to advances in analyzing time-varying functional connectivity, which has emerged as an important fMRI approach to cortical systems.
Dr. Hoffman’s early work established volumetric, quantitative computed tomography (QCT) for the assessment of normal lung structure-to-function relationships and promoted translation of methodologies to the sub-phenotyping of obstructive lung disease. Hoffman has directed Radiology Centers for many NIH-sponsored COPD and Asthma-related multi-center studies, standardizing imaging and image analysis protocols. Quantitative characterizations of the lung have identified numerous important genetic and environmental-based links to COPD. Dynamic CT to assess parenchymal perfusion has demonstrated that emphysema susceptibility may relate to the inability to maintain perfusion in the presence of inflammation. Dual-energy CT has demonstrated a restoration of perfusion with sildenafil.

Dr. Moonsoo’s earlier work has focused on developing biomolecules for therapy and imaging applications. This was demonstrated by engineering of high affinity variants of native proteins, which was found to be a potent antagonist to T cell adherence to and subsequent migration through endothelial cells. His recent work has focused on applying molecular engineering to program T cells for cancer therapy. This was achieved by introducing chimeric antigen receptors or other cell signaling pathways to T cells. I developed SSTR2 as an imaging reporter for T cells for specific and sensitive imaging of adoptively transferred T cells.

Dr. Karp’s research spans the range from basic laboratory research to development of innovative PET systems that have continually advanced imaging performance over the last 35 years. This work has resulted in development of key concepts now commonly incorporated into commercial systems for human and animal imaging. Most notably, Dr. Karp has been a leader in research to develop concepts for fully 3D PET systems, technology for time-of-flight (TOF) imaging, and development of methods to quantify the clinical impact of TOF imaging and image generation methods.
Dr. Kim is a biomedical engineer with a broad background in cardiovascular MRI. Building upon active collaboration with cardiology and radiology colleagues, he seeks to break new grounds in cardiovascular MRI by developing innovative pulse sequences to address unmet needs in cardiovascular medicine. Dr. Kim’s research spans a continuum and follows a natural progression from pulse sequence development to validation to clinical translation. The three key publications which highlight his work include arrhythmia-insensitive-rapid (AIR) cardiac T1 mapping for assessment of diffuse myocardial fibrosis in patients with atrial fibrillation, wideband cardiac T1 mapping for assessment of myocardial fibrosis in patients with an implantable defibrillator, and rapid real-time cine MRI with compressed sensing for assessment of cardiac function in patients with arrhythmia.
Development of quantitative MRI methods for assessment of tumor treatment response is the main focus of Dr. Kim’s research. He and his group have shown that diffusion MRI can be used to predict treatment response and to measure tissue microscopic cellular properties using its diffusion-time dependency. Their previous work also demonstrated the importance of considering tumor cellular properties, such as transcytolemmal water exchange, when measuring the vascular property of tumor. In breast cancer, Dr. Kim and his group have shown that the MRI-measured vascular and cellular properties can be used to quantify the effect of female hormones on the fibro glandular tissue and development of cancer.
Dr. Kinahan’s research has focused on the development and use of positron emission tomography (PET) and x-ray Computer Tomography (CT). He was part of the group that developed the first PET/CT scanner prototype. He developed the first methods for CT-based attenuation correction of PET data. Related projects were the development of accelerated image reconstruction methods adopted by industry. Other contributions were the development of attenuation compensation methods for data confounded by high-z materials, such as bone or implants or from respiratory motion. A related area has been implementing PET/CT into clinical trials requiring quantitative imaging.
Dr. La Riviere is a research-oriented biomedical physicist with a background in inverse problems and a strong interest in emerging imaging modalities. He has developed novel approaches to sinogram restoration and spectral CT data processing that have influenced clinical practice. In X-ray fluorescence tomography, he has pioneered new imaging geometries for this emerging imaging modality that could allow for its deployment in preclinical imaging.

Longitudinally imaging healthy children starting from birth, Lin lab has uncovered brain functional and structural development in early infancy. A primitive and incomplete default mode network (DMN) is present in 2-week-olds, followed by a rapid maturation in year 1. By two-years-old, DMN becomes similar to that observed in adults. His team further investigated temporal development of language development and reported that language lateralization starts at 2-year-old. Finally, a novel approach to reveal brain oxygen metabolism using MRI was developed by Dr. Lin, which has been demonstrated effective in the management of acute stroke patients.

Dr. Lui is a neuroimaging expert leading a federally-funded, translational research team at the forefront of discovering the biological underpinnings of traumatic brain injury using MRI. Her contribution comprises some of the seminal works in the field: to understand tissue microstructure, metabolism, and functional alterations after concussion. Yvonne also seeks to better understand the complex relationships between brain structure and function which lie at the core of human experience. Recent works describe tissue microstructure and working memory and offer a novel casting of an advanced fMRI model of brain causal architecture as a special form of a recurrent neural network.

Dr. Magnotta has made significant contributions to the study of psychiatric and neurological disorders using MRI. His work has included the development of novel tools for the analysis of brain morphology and used extensively to study a number of disorders. Recently his work has focused on the development of T1rho imaging to study metabolic changes related to brain function. He has shown that functional T1rho is independent of the blood flow response and responds faster than blood flow changes. Finally, he has shown that the coupling of blood flow and metabolism is altered in panic and bipolar disorder.
Dr. Mankoff’s research spans the range of basic, translational, and clinical research, emphasizing translational cancer imaging research. He has had essentially continuous NIH funding as PI since his appointment as a junior faculty member at the University of Washington in 1996, including current NIH/NCI R01 and an R33 Cancer Moonshot grants. Dr. Mankoff has many areas of focus and research leadership, and representative key publications, include developing new molecular imaging methods, translating new approaches to early human trials, and directing multi-center clinical trials of novel imaging methods.
Dr. Mason is a leader in the kinetic analysis of MRS and MRSI measurements with 13C isotopic labeling and applications to psychiatric disorders. Through development of quantitative hypothesis driven metabolic models, he has major contributions to the use of 13C MRS/MRSI to uniquely image cell specific oxidative metabolism (glutamatergic neurons, GABAergic neurons, and astroglia), and rates of glutamate /GABA neurotransmitter cycling. His metabolic models are used in13C MRS studies of patients and preclinical models worldwide. He has personally applied them to make important findings on metabolic factors in alcohol abuse and neuropsychiatric disorders.
During the last two decades Dr. Mohamed have been working on developing quantitative functional neuroimaging biomarkers to study the brain and the spinal cord (SC). Specifically, in the last several years he has been researching developing diffusion imaging methods to study the SC in children. His lab has been testing new methods to accurately measure the diffusion parameters in the SCI using novel pulse sequences such as inner-FOV DTI, to improve its reliability and repeatability. Dr. Mohamed continues furthering this work in developing neuroimaging biomarkers for accurate detection and quantification of SC diseases.
Dr. Kathryn Morton, a Professor of Radiology at the University of Utah Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences has a 30 plus year history of significant contributions to the field of molecular imaging research. Her current research and NIH funding focus on the molecular imaging of pulmonary and neurologic consequences of sepsis in a rat model.
Dr. Narendran’s early work demonstrated greater vulnerability for dopamine D2/3 agonist as compared to D2/3 antagonist binding, to endogenous competition by the agonist dopamine. This finding continuously guides the field’s quest for the development of agonist PET radiotracers as superior tools to study neurochemical transmission in the living brain. First to demonstrate in vivo [11 C]PHNO has relatively high D3 receptor specific binding compared to the other D2/3 radiotracers. This finding led to use of [11 C]PHNO to measure D3 receptors in neuropsychiatric disorders. His work with [11C]FLB 457- amphetamine paved the way to measure prefrontal cortical dopamine in health and disease.
Supported by NIH grants as PI since 2011, Dr. Nishino contributed to define the role of imaging as a marker for precision oncology, focusing on lung cancer and immunotherapy. She defined the impact of revised RECIST guidelines in lung cancer treated with targeted therapy and characterized tumor volume dynamics to guide treatment decisions. She applied her expertise in cancer immunotherapy and led the efforts to establish the current strategy of immune-related response evaluations in oncology. She also contributed to radiographic profiling of toxicities due to novel cancer therapy and pioneered the investigations of drug-related pneumonitis in immunotherapy.
Dr. Paulmurugan has developed a novel split-reporter complementation system to study protein-protein interactions and protein-folding in vivo, which is currently been used by several laboratories for screening drugs that modulate protein function, including anticancer drugs targeting mutant-p53 by his lab. His lab developed a dual-therapeutic gene therapy system (HSV1-Thymidine-kinase-Nitroreductase) that is five times stronger in killing cancer cells in vivo when treating with prodrugs while providing opportunity to image therapeutic response by clinically relevant PET. His lab developed Ultrasound-Microbubble mediated delivery of clinically approved PLGA-Nanoparticles for oncogenic microRNAs for improving chemotherapy, and currently extending this approach to treat dogs with spontaneous HCC.
Using neuroimaging and mathematical modeling, Dr. Raj and his team has uncovered network spread rules that recapitulate diverse neuropathological processes, especially Neuron 2012 paper that proposed a novel “Network-Diffusion” model of the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia. This work was awarded a prestigious EUREKA R01 award. The clinical significance is that it can predict future dementia patterns of a patient based on baseline scans: as demonstrated in Cell Reports. Recently he showed that connectome-driven propagation of Alzheimer disease is far more important than regional gene expression, a proxy for innate cell-autonomous factors.
Dr. Schuster’s research focuses on translational development of radioligands for molecular imaging. His research concentrates on amino acid metabolism in oncologic imaging. He played a central role in translating the synthetic amino acid transport PET radiotracer FACBC (fluciclovine) into humans, becoming the 12th FDA-approved radiotracer. Highlights include an NIH R01on imaging of recurrent prostate cancer with FACBC and publication of numerous peer reviewed papers.
Dr. Smith has pioneered the development and translational applications of advanced imaging biomarkers for the detection and assessment of disorders of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves. He has pioneered the application of quantitative magnetization transfer (qMT), diffusion imaging and chemical exchange saturation transfer (GEST) imaging of the cord and optic nerve. His contributions include the first use of qMT in the brain applied to patients at high field, the first implementation of CEST in the spinal cord in vivo in subjects with multiple sclerosis, and the first applications of quantitative multi-shot diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to assess the optic nerve.
Dr. Tang is an expert in multi-detector, cone beam, and phase contrast CT. His significant contributions include; Three-dimensional weighted cone beam filtered back projection algorithm for image reconstruction in volumetric CT–Helical scanning; Characterization of imaging performance in differential phase contrast CT compared with conventional CT–NPS(k); Optimization data acquisition in axial CT under framework of sampling on lattice for suppression of aliasing artifacts with algorithmic detector interlacing.
Dr. Torigian helped create a general automatic anatomy recognition software system that works on multiple organs body-wide and on multiple cross-sectional imaging modalities, which will facilitate practicable automated radiology image analysis. He described, for the first time, the metabolic effects of chronic tobacco use in all major organs of the whole body based on quantitative FDG-PET/CT. He was also the first to report the feasibility of quantifying pulmonary air trapping on lung MDCT via an optical flow method.
Dr. Tu is an innovator in using PET to investigate abnormalities in different biological processes. His current research focuses on the development of PET radiopharmaceuticals for neurological disorders. Key contributions include PET radiopharmaceuticals which target four biomarkers: vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT); FVAT can quantify the loss of cholinergic neurons in patients with early stage cognitive dysfunction; a clinical trial is underway in PD and PSP patients; Sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor 1 (SlPl), a therapeutic target in MS and other inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis, neointimal hyperplasia, carotid injury; this tracer represents an innovative methodology for imaging inflammation; phosphodiesterase, a specific C-11 labeled promise agent was fully characterized for their suitability to assess the PDEl0A expression in the brain. Dopamine receptor 3 (D3), D3 specific agents measure neurobiological changes in social stress and drug abuse. The new SlPl and PDEl0A radiopharmaceuticals will be ready to transfer into clinical use next year. The VAChT and D3 imaging biomarker had transferred from the bench to clinic bed. In addition, he also had transferred an F-18 labeled fatty acid radiotracer for cardiovascular imaging, and an F-18 labeled sigma-2 receptor radiotracer for cancer imaging into clinical investigations.
Throughout Dr. Van Brocklin’s career he has developed new radiochemical synthetic methods to prepare PET and SPECT radiotracers, for preclinical evaluation and translation for human research and clinical development. Dr. Van Brocklin’s creative approach has applied an enzymatic method to label amino acid-based molecules with fluorine-18. Antibody-based agents targeting UPaR receptors led to imaging and radiotherapeutic molecules and an understanding of the UPaR expression in several tumor types, he developed a new fluorine-18 labeled phosphonamidite targeting PSMA that has now completed successful phase 1 human trials at UCSF.
Dr. Vedantham’s career is devoted to defining the optimal utilization of innovative, image-guided therapies for patients with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in studies with high scientific rigor and broad collaborative scope. Early on, he pioneered contemporary endovascular strategies for prevention and treatment of post-thrombotic syndrome, a disabling late complication of DVT. He subsequently served as National Principal Investigator of two pivotal, NIH-sponsored, multicenter randomized clinical trials (ATTRACT and C-TRACT). Evidence from the completed, landmark ATTRACT Trial now enables physicians to target catheter-based therapy to acute DVT patients who are most likely to benefit, reducing morbidity and costs.
Dr. Wald has made major contributions to a MRI methodology. He introduced highly parallel detection for MRI, including the first >32ch arrays a strategy now widely used. His method for Simultaneous MutliSlice EPI speeds up clinical scanning and is in use by the major vendors. His work on new systems such as the “Connectome” scanner has expanded the capability of diffusion MRI. He is currently developing the first human Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) scanner as part of a Brain Initiative grant.
Dr. Yang’s research has focused on interventional radiofrequency (RF) technologies to treat cancers. He has confirmed that RF can enhance gene- and chemo-therapies for several cancers. He has also developed molecular imaging techniques for guiding advanced stem cell and therapies.
Dr. Zhang has discovered a novel imaging method to highlight neuronal layers in the mouse brain. The method is sensitive to the microstructural organization within these layers, which leads to unique diffusion time dependent signal changes. Dr. Zhang also leads a team of researchers to apply similar methods to sensitively detect subtle brain tissue damages after neonatal hypoxia ischemia.
Dr. Zhang research focuses on cellular MRI, novel image-guided cancer immunotherapy, and image-guided combination cancer immunotherapy. He has made significant contributions to these field with recent studies: using clinical MR scanners to depict single therapeutic cells; developing MRI-guided selective transcatheter intrahepatic arterial (IHA) delivery techniques in a rodent HCC models; optimizing in vivo MRI approaches for tracking the therapeutic immune cells (dendritic cell vaccines); developing MRI techniques for NK cell tracking and IHA delivery methods for NK adoptive transfer immunotherapy (ATI); developing a novel image-guided interventional combination HCC immunotherapy using the target compound and NK-ATJ; and developing a novel image-guided combination PDAC therapy using local IRE and DC-based immunotherapy.