N. Jon Shah

veski innovation fellow

The University of Melbourne

Professor Jon Shah was awarded a veski innovation fellowship in April 2016.

Project summary:  ‘Quantitative Metabolic Bio-medical Imaging: Transformational MR-PET Technologies for Brain Research’

Professor Jon Shah is transforming the way we ‘look’ at the human brain, and developing new ways to investigate the brains of people suffering from traumatic brain injuries, mental health disorders and obesity and diabetes.

In a global partnership with Monash University in Australia, Research Centre Jülich in Germany and industry partner Siemens Pacific, Professor Jon Shah is developing next generation brain imaging methodologies focused on quantifying brains scans; allowing researchers to compare images produced today with images produced tomorrow and see measureable changes in physical units such as milliseconds and absolute concentrations.

His research draws on a relatively new multimodal technology that simultaneously combines the strengths of Positron Emission Tomography (`) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The highly sensitive PET, which detects and spatially represents the body’s specific molecular processes, is combined with the exquisite high-resolution structural detail and image contrast provided by MRI.

By enabling simultaneous real time observation of physiological and biochemical processes in vivo, MR-PET benefits the community through enhanced knowledge of disease and tissue regenerative processes, enabling the development of new techniques and technologies for the diagnosis and treatment of neurological brain diseases as well as metabolic diseases including diabetes and obesity.

Enabled by a veski innovation fellowship, Professor Shah’s international standing in this area will accelerate Victoria’s collaborative efforts to deliver transformational imaging technologies via a world-class biomedical imaging research community. Professor Shah’s use of state- of-the-art non-invasive biomedical imaging technologies also enhances the evaluation of new biomaterials, medical devices, cell tissue implants and therapeutic delivery technologies.

With only a small number of countries having access to the MR-PET technology, including Germany, USA and Australia, Jon’s priority is to bring the knowledge he has gained in Germany and put it to work on the new machine at Monash University.

He has also started collaborating with clinical colleagues and will take advantage of the proximity of patients to the facility; a challenge he faced in Germany. Jon will also use his methodology to look at a cohort of Victorian patients with traumatic brain injuries who were first studied approximately five years ago, and use MR-PET to gain a deeper understanding of what’s happening in their brains.

In addition to his research, Professor Shah is working to enable PHD students, who he says are the “backbone of research” to spend up to a third of their time in partner institutes. For PhD students it is great to see how things are done in different countries, and if you can engage people at a young age you stop them from becoming too rigid too early.

We’d like to see things working on a trilateral basis – a chosen industrial partner with whom we can set up projects which cross international boundaries

Professor Jon N Shah