Ferric Contrast Receives $225,000 NSF STTR Award

Ferric Contrast Receives competitive federal STTR award to advance R&D on novel MRI contrast agents

Ferric Contrast Inc., a biotechnology company developing iron-based contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), has received a Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support commercialization of its novel contrast agents.

The new funding, totaling $225,000, recognizes the promise and potential impact of Ferric Contrast’s technology. The company’s contrast agents could offer an alternative to the gadolinium-based complexes that have traditionally been employed in MRI. Recent studies have found that gadolinium can accumulate in patients’ brains and other organs, raising safety concerns.

“The U.S. FDA and its counterparts in Europe, Canada and Japan have all been re-evaluating the safety of gadolinium-based contrast agents, and what Ferric Contrast is developing is a suite of iron-based alternatives,” says Ferric Contrast President and co-founder Bradford La Salle.

“The timing couldn’t be better for this technology,” La Salle says. “Doctors and patients want options. We have spoken to radiologists and oncologists and the pharmaceutical industry, and toxicity is a huge concern. They’re very interested in what we’re doing.”

Unlike gadolinium, iron — the focus of Ferric Contrast’s work — is found naturally in humans. Iron occurs in red blood cells, and the body has ways of clearing and recycling the element, says Ferric Contrast co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Janet Morrow, PhD, University at Buffalo Distinguished Professor of Chemistry.

The company is developing its iron-based contrast agents for use in producing high-quality MRI images of the brain, vasculature, liver and kidneys, and for detection of tumors resulting from cancer.

Ferric Contrast has shown that its contrast agents can be used to obtain clear images of bodily organs and brain tumors, and the new STTR funding will allow the company to conduct further studies demonstrating the efficacy of its chemical complexes.

Moving forward, the firm will also complete toxicity studies that examine the safety of its contrast agents.
Ferric Contrast is based in the UB Technology Incubator at Baird Research Park in Amherst, New York. The company is a UB spinoff with strong ties to the university.

UB’s Bruce Holm Memorial Catalyst Fund previously provided funding for R&D, and the university also supported the company in competing successfully for $50,000 in the FuzeHub Commercialization Competition.