In Geneva, Bracco Research listens to the harmony of cells

Bracco Imaging S.p.A. is one of the world’s leading companies in the diagnostic imaging business. Based in Milan, Italy, Bracco Imaging develops, manufactures and markets diagnostic imaging agents and solutions meeting medical needs and facilitating clinical solutions. Bracco Imaging is a subsidiary of Bracco S.p.A, the holding company of the Bracco Group, which also markets ethical and over the counter (OTC) pharmaceutical products in Italy as well as advanced medical technology systems worldwide.

The Bracco Group also offers diagnosis services through the Milan-based Centro Diagnostico Italiano (Italian Diagnostic Centre). The Company operates in over 80 markets worldwide, either directly or indirectly, through subsidiaries, joint ventures, licenses and distribution partnership agreements. Bracco Imaging is an innovative R&D player with an efficient process oriented approach and a track record of innovation in the diagnostic imaging industry. With over 300 employees worldwide (12% of the total Group workforce), of proven technological excellence this network is completed by satellite laboratories and partnership with universities, private and public R&D centres, clinical centres, etc. Bracco has a strong traditional commitment to R&D, with investments approx 9% of its turnover.Avant-garde atmosphere

Bracco Research SA was founded in 1989 in Geneva and is now part of Bracco Suisse SA. In 1997, Bracco Imaging BV Geneva Branch Office was created as a division of the Finished Goods Operations of Bracco Imaging S.p.A., and both companies moved in 1998 to a new building in Plan–les–Ouates, a high–tech area on the outskirts of Geneva.

The choice of the Geneva location is in line with the Company’s philosophical and strategic approach favouring the establishment of research groups in those areas that offer a combination of high skills, innovative ideas and a lively, avant–garde technological atmosphere, as scientific parks, universities and high–tech laboratories. The R&D centre of Plan-Les-Ouates operates as part of Bracco’s integrated research network (including advanced research centre at the BioIndustry Park near Ivrea, Northern Italy and Princeton in the US).

Today the Plan-Les-Ouates units globally employ about 75 highly specialised people. The research unit concentrates on the development of new diagnostic imaging products with a focus on products for ultrasound. It is also the centre specialised in the study of drug delivery technologies and their use for designing novel products. This activity was successful with the approval of SonoVue in 2001, and then by the achievement of phase I with a new blood pool agent in 2009. A new molecular imaging agent for angiogenesis assessment will enter into clinical phase in 2010.

Research starts in the discovery team where new contrast agents, including molecular imaging agents, are designed and synthesized. The acoustic properties of these agents are extensively analysed in the physics lab, where new imaging and measurements methods are investigated. Dedicated software solutions are also developed in this group, to aid clinical diagnosis in the major indications of contrast ultrasound. In the echographic pre-clinical imaging lab, the contrast products are tested to verify their efficacy. Extensive studies are also performed on the interactions of novel agents with various isolated receptors or cells. The safety profile of the agents is the object of numerous in-depth studies. In 2010, this centre will be reinforced by adding chemistry activities and enlargement of biological facilities.From lab to plant

The R&D pilot unit is in charge of process development and technology transfer based on experiments carried out by the discovery team. In addition, this group has the mission to manufacture pilot-scale batches of drug product that are tested in clinical studies. Analytical and microbiological labs are responsible for the development of quality control methods that are used for raw materials and final product analyses as well as for stability studies. The Galenics and Pharmaceutical Development unit develops packagings of pharmaceutical quality and medical devices meeting medical and marketing needs.The manufacturing plant of Bracco Imaging BV Geneva Branch Office, produces the Company’s latest second generation contrast medium for ultrasound, (SonoVue), the result of Bracco’s extensive research efforts in the field of ultrasound. This agent, based on Sulphur hexafluoride microbubbles, enhances echo signals from blood.

It leads physicians to visualise the vascular system and to enhance organs to enable detection or characterisation of defects or lesions in various organs as well as monitoring of treatment efficacy. It is of particular interest for dynamic studies of the microcirculation in conjunction with contrast–specific imaging modalities. The production line consists in an FDA approved fully automated aseptic filling line for vials with lyophilisation capabilities. The plant includes also a secondary packaging line where finished product presentations are assembled. Quality control activities are performed by the microbiological and analytical labs of Bracco Imaging BV.

The proximity of a research unit and a manufacturing plant is essential to ensure the development and production of high quality products in a favourable environment with easy links between experts in various fields as well as opportunities for new developments from biology and formulation to production at industrial scale.

By François

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