All questions answered by Dr. Christoph Nebel from the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung eV, Germany.
What do you want to achieve in this project?
Hyperpolarized Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a viable, non-radioactive, molecular imaging technique to detect heart metabolism on a molecular level. It requires, however, long-lasting treatments at cryogenic temperatures, giving rise to limited application. Significant improvements can be achieved using nitrogen-vacancy (NV)-doped diamond (“polarizer”) for hyperpolarization, giving rise to significant improved polarization efficiencies.
The NV-spin can be transferred to nuclear-spins by well-established NMR procedures at room temperature. MetaboliQs brings together a multidisciplinary consortium of leading diamond quantum technology research institutes (Element6, Fraunhofer IAF, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) for quantum sensing, an innovative company (NVision), an inventor of diamond-based polarization, two users of hyperpolarized and cardiovascular MRI (TUM, ETH) and the market leader in electron paramagnetic resonance and preclinical MRI (Bruker).
How will European citizens benefit from this project, both from the technology developments it accomplishes as well as the basic science breakthroughs it may achieve?
- MRI can be performed in low magnetic fields at room temperature with long-time-stable hyperpolarized marker molecules. Therefore, several benefits will arise:
- Clinical care of very high volumes of patients
- Drug discovery improvements
- Access to affordable healthcare
- Commercial (financial impact), kick-starting a quantum industry
- Growth of companies, creation of quality jobs and expanding European excellence
- Scientific breakthroughs in quantum technologies
- Synergetic collaboration with the medical imaging and quantum sensing European infrastructure
Why is the Quantum Flagship important and why did you choose to become part of it?
New technologies require funding to overcome the “valley of death”. To establish quantum technologies, this is even more important as here we deal with “disruptive technology developments”. The Quantum Flagship is a unique possibility to develop these new technologies in a well-connected scientific environment, which will improve the knowledge and related exchanges.
How do you see the advancement of quantum technologies in the near future and what would be your ultimate dream in the long run?
The hyperpolarization-based MRI imaging will become established (maybe the first QT-application).
Besides, lots of other metrology topics (magnetometry, current-, temperature-and pressure sensing, navigation, geology etc.) can be developed, but they will require significantly more time until they will become products. The flagship intends to last 10 years, which is a natural timespan from Technology Readiness Level (TRL)2 to TRL8. So, during this period of time, the QT disruptive technology will become a major technology in daily life.