Preclinical Development

Molecular Imaging

Southern Research offers molecular imaging services as an integral part of our preclinical efficacy and safety programs. Molecular imaging is the use of advanced technologies to noninvasively visualize specific cellular and molecular processes underlying disease states and monitor therapeutic effects in vivo. As an exceptional benefit to our clients, Southern Research provides molecular imaging technologies to assist with the acceleration, optimization, and confirmation of preclinical investigations.

Advanced Capabilities and Technologies

Southern Research offers access to the most advanced molecular imaging technologies available including PET, SPECT, CT, and optical imaging.

  • PET (Positron Emission Tomography) uses short-lived radiotracers produced in cyclotrons to produce 3D images for evaluating the biodistribution or biological effect of a radiolabeled drug or biological agent in vivo. This technology - used for tumor, cardiac, and brain imaging - can also be used in preclinical animal models.
  • SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) uses gamma emitting radiotracers to produce 3D images showing distribution in vivo of a radiolabeled drug or biological agent. The same radiopharmaceuticals developed for human use for blood flow and organ-specific imaging can be used in preclinical animal models.
  • CT (Computed Tomography) is used to generate 3D X-ray images. Combined with PET and SPECT, this technology can be used to define specific anatomical locations of a radiotracer. Used alone, it can provide anatomical resolution of specific biological features.
  • Optical imaging uses a highly sensitive CCD camera to capture fluorescent or bioluminescent images of specific markers in vivo. This technology is widely used to track cells labeled with the firefly luciferase gene or fluorescent probes.

Diverse Applications

Molecular imaging technologies provide cellular and molecular information pertaining to mechanisms of drug action and disposition, thereby predicting earlier in the preclinical drug development process whether novel agents will be efficacious and safe.

Radiolabeled Drugs and Biologics

Radiolabeled drugs and biologics are used in molecular imaging to study preclinical pharmacology. Applications include:

  • Radiolabeled small molecules and biological agents can be used to follow delivery to a specific target.
  • Pharmacokinetic parameters such as absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination can be determined.


Radiotracers are used as biomarkers and surrogate endpoints in molecular imaging to monitor disease progression and therapeutic effect. Applications include:

  • Preclinical molecular imaging enables therapeutic endpoints to be determined in disease models, thereby accelerating go/no-go decisions in the drug development process.
  • In preclinical cancer research, molecular imaging can help determine tumor incidence and burden over time in small animal models.

State-Of-The-Art Facilities and Equipment

Southern Research imaging studies are performed in modern, state-of-the-art facilities using advanced, leading-edge equipment. Facilities feature:

  • A dedicated small-animal imaging facility
  • An AAALAC-accredited animal facility
  • State-of-the-art equipment for in vitro and in vivo imaging
    • Two microPET systems for small-animal imaging
    • A dedicated small-animal CT scanner
    • Integrated PET/SPECT/CT system with a full suite of life signs monitoring and support components (heart, breathing, temperature, anesthesia, blood micro-sampling)
    • SPECT CZT (cadmium zinc telluride)detectors for simultaneous imaging of multiple radiotracers
    • Bioluminescence/fluorescence imaging capability
  • PET radiotracer production capability
    • Two cyclotrons (18MeV and 19MeV) for isotope production
    • cGMP-compliant radiochemistry synthesis laboratories for production and development of custom radiotracers
    • 4,000 square-foot, ISO-certified, QC facility with hot cells, process control units, fume hoods, synthesis units, clean rooms, and biological safety cabinets

Experienced, Highly Qualified Staff

Scientists at Southern Research hold one of the most enviable track records in drug discovery and development. Our experienced scientific professionals have worked with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies worldwide in moving their products forward and have also advanced more than 20 of our own drugs into clinical trials, with seven of them receiving FDA approval.

Imaging staff highlights include:

  • Multiple specialists with decades of molecular imaging experience in research imaging, PET, physics, radiochemistry, and radiopharmacy
  • Significant radiochemistry capability for producing radiolabeled PET and SPECT compounds
  • Expertise in post-acquisition data handling and processing, with extensive experience handling multimodality imaging data in a variety of formats
  • Guidance for preclinical experimental design and data analysis, including directing projects successfully from concept to completion and ensuring that professional standards are maintained and our clients' expectations are met at every level

Contact Us

For more information about our capabilities, contact us at:
888-322-1166 (U.S.)
1-205-581-2830 (International)