By Mary Vanac

The Philips Healthcare Global Advanced Imaging Innovation Center could bolster northeast Ohio’s reputation as a hub for innovation in medical imaging technology.

The $38.4 million partnership of Philips, University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University — supported by a $5 million Ohio Third Frontier grant — was announced last week. Philips, which is supplying $33.4 million of the funding, is also considering an investment of a similar amount in a second phase of the center.

Northeast Ohio was a birthplace for x-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies in the 1940s and 1950s. Now, the region is creating new imaging modalities, such as optical coherence tomography (Imalux), as well as hybrid technologies, such as coupling imaging with radiation treatments for cancer patients (ViewRay).

“Case Western Reserve possesses a proud history of leadership in imaging research and innovation,” Barbara Snyder, the university’s president, said in a release. “The award to us from the Third Frontier, and the partnership it enables, gives us a great opportunity to build on our existing strengths in this field.”

Scientists, physicians and students from University Hospitals Case Medical Center would be able to “kick the tires” of emerging medical imaging technologies — and help create new ones — at the imaging innovation center located at their facility. “The collaboration between our various organizations will create a pipeline to move innovative technologies more quickly into patient care,” said CEO of University Hospitals Thomas Zenty, in the university’s release.

University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve would use their $5 million grant to equip the center. The hospital would provide patients from its neurology, cardiology, pathology and oncology departments. The university would provide technology evaluation, and biomedical engineering and research services, according to the Third Frontier grant application.

In return, Philips — which operates its global computed tomography and nuclear medicine businesses from nearby Highland Heights, Ohio, where it employs 1,100 — would get valuable insight about its medical imaging technologies from clinicians and researchers. The company initially plans to hire five high-level R&D workers to staff the center, with more hires likely after the center opens next year.

The latest Philips imaging equipment will be brought to Cleveland for development, validation of clinical efficacy and product release. The center also would become an international hub to educate people in these medical technologies.

“Our company aspires to assist clinicians by providing breakthrough imaging technologies that today are not yet possible,” said Jay Mazelsky, senior vice president for Computed Tomography and Nuclear Medicine at Philips Healthcare, in the release. “This Advanced Imaging Innovation Center will help us realize these objectives and in the process, help improve the healthcare of patients in Ohio and throughout the world.”