Private Donation to Fund Medical Imaging Research
The Erling-Persson Family Foundation has donated SEK 22 million ($3.2 million) to help KTH expand research into medical imaging physics and computed tomography. The new funding will allow important new diagnostic tools to move out of the laboratory and into medical clinics.
“Rapid developments in technology are creating ideal conditions for medical research,” says Erling-Persson Foundation Chairman Stefan Persson. The new donation, which follows an earlier contribution to KTH of similar value, “aims to significantly reduce the required radiation dose during X-ray examinations without compromising image quality,” he adds. Persson is also Chairman of the Board of the Sweden-based global fashion retailer H&M.
Computed tomography — better known as CAT scan — is one of the most commonly used diagnostic technologies available to medicine, performed an estimated one million times per year in Sweden alone to detect internal injury, bleeding and tumours. In Computed Axial Tomography, a series of two-dimensional X-ray images are taken around a single axis of rotation and then digitally processed to generate a detailed three-dimensional picture that gives doctors a high-resolution view of internal trauma or disease. But the technology also entails exposing the patient to relatively high doses of radiation, and clinicians are often hesitant to prescribe the procedure for children.
“With our new technology, fewer children will develop cancer due to CAT scan radiation,” says Professor Mats Danielsson of the KTH School of Engineering Sciences, where the Erling-Persson donation will fund salaries and equipment over a three-year period.
In the first phase of the project, Professor Danielson’s research group has developed a new sensor for computed tomography that’s considerably more sensitive than current technology, allowing a reduction in the amount of X-ray radiation. The sensor employs a microchip set that’s currently ranked as the world’s most advanced, with some 2 million transistors.
“It’s exciting to see research turn into concrete procedures, and it feels great to do something positive for Sweden and for patients. This project has produced a number of journal articles that have been widely cited, and that’s an indication that our research is on the right track,” Danielsson says.
KTH President Peter Gudmundsson says the Erling-Persson Family Foundation’s continued commitment to medical technology research is tremendously important to the university’s mission of generating real benefits for society. “X-ray technology will be taken to a new level thanks to the support we have received from the Foundation,” President Gudmundsson said. “This new donation will further strengthen KTH’s leading position in medical technology.”
Private donations have given Danielsson’s research team the latitude to focus on results, and he says that has been key to the project’s success so far. He points out that EU funding is often conditioned on political requirements for cooperation with other institutions, which can slow the pace of research.
Professor Danielsson, who received his MSc in Engineering Physics from KTH in 1990, has had a noteworthy business career in parallel with his years in academia. He founded Sectra Mamea AB, a company that develops and sells advanced mammography equipment to clinics, and served as CEO from 1999 to 2004 as the company grew from zero to 40 employees. The company, which he founded together with some colleagues. Sectra Mamea has become a market leader, with its equipment used in several million mammograms each year.
In the 1990s he worked first with the CPLEAR particle physics experiment at the European CERN laboratory in Switzerland, and then as a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, where he conducted research on detectors and integrated electronics for X-ray imaging.
Since 2007 he is also Director of the Centre for Life Sciences Imaging, a collaboration between KTH and Karolinska Institute. His research has resulted in some 50 new patents related to new sensor systems for radiology.
“We always apply for patents before we publish a research report if we think we have a good idea. That’s important if one wants to commercialise the results in any way. But that’s the boring part of this work,” Danielsson says.
The team has also received a substantial grant from the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation, which Danielsson says shows that his group is recognised for producing top-quality research.
For further information: Mats Danielsson, +46-8-55 37 81 81; firstname.lastname@example.org or Philip von Segebaden, Head of Fundraising, +46-8-790 64 45; email@example.com.
By Emma Ny and Peter Larsson. Edited by Kevin Billinghurst.