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Edinburgh Molecular Imaging – Case Study

Edinburgh Molecular Imaging (EM Imaging) is a clinical phase biotechnology company based at NINE BioQuarter focused on enabling image guided interventional medicine.

Founded in 2014, EM Imaging is a spin-out of the University of Edinburgh. Head of Chemistry and Clinical Programme Manager, Christophe Portal talks about his career path, the story behind EM Imaging and location at BioQuarter.


After graduating with a PhD in Bioorganic Chemistry, Christophe Portal decided he wanted to work at the interface between chemistry and biology in industry, to be able to deal with applied science projects and see the direct effect of his work on people, or at least within a reasonable time frame.

“I have worked for three start-ups in imaging, drug discovery and therapy,” said Christophe. “Early stage and/or small companies are amazing to work for providing the opportunity to cover a large span of activities as well as the incredible flexibility they have in terms of decision-making processes.”

EM Imaging started six years ago, originally developing lung agents for fibrosis, inflammation and infection detection using optical molecular imaging during bronchoscopy. Whilst these compounds are now making their way to through clinical stages, the company then acquired a clinical stage cancer optical imaging, which is now not far from commercialisation since it is currently getting ready for Phase III clinical studies. In addition, EM Imaging has further expanded last year into the area of theragnostic with a new project on targeted radiotherapy that has shown a lot of potential so far.

Industry Recognition

“I believe I have been able to make significant contributions to the start-ups I have had the chance to be involved in, helping them grow from small structures to established players in their respective fields,” said Christophe.

EM Imaging  is now a recognised stakeholder in cancer molecular imaging and therapy.

Christophe explained,”Our first successful images real cancer margin assessment in breast, thyroid and penile cancer were a great milestone for us, but the recent first administration of our recently developed theragnostic agents to humans was undeniably the highlight of the year. This is a truly amazing feeling to see we can deliver a therapeutic agent directly to the tumour and a lot of credit goes to the team at EM Imaging as well as our collaborators in hospitals throughout the UK and all over Europe for achieving this.”

Location and Collaboration

On location at BioQuarter, EM Imaging wanted to be easily accessible for  collaborators worldwide. “BioQuarter fulfilled all our requirements and is also close to our founders and the community of clinicians we work with in Edinburgh,” said Christophe.

“It is great to be part of a community of small size companies, comparing approaches and helping each other to deal with the challenges we face and that are sometimes very similar even if we are not part of the same area of life sciences.”

Impact of COVID-19 on Business

Many businesses and clinic trails have been effected by the coronavirus pandemic which has changed the focus of their operations. What did this mean for EM Imaging?

Christophe replied, “We have not had a big impact from lockdown situation, apart from having to shut down our labs, which has slowed us down on some aspects of our research but did not impact us too much so far. Our clinical sites should reopen shortly, and we look forward to restarting the ongoing studies.”

“A lot of credit should go to the building management team who is doing an absolutely incredible join at sheltering companies from the sometimes-tedious aspect of dealing with building related issues and logistics, especially throughout this pandemic. Kudos to them, they help us focus on our research whilst enjoying the best environment to do so.

Great Minds

And finally what inspires Christophe…

“The energy, leadership, kindness and brain power of the people I collaborate and work with amazes me and keeps me going. Being part of a solid team is pinnacle and this is truly what inspires me.”

“EM Imaging is developing a pipeline of highly novel in vivo c-Met targeting theragnostic and optical imaging agents that will alter the landscape of precision medicine.”


The company’s molecular imaging technology, based on Fluorescent Imaging, has the potential to detect disease in real-time during interventional procedures including surgery, providing more accurate treatment while sparing healthy tissue.


The EM Imaging team has decades of documented success in imaging agent discovery and development with expertise spanning medicinal chemistry, biochemistry and cell biology, along with direct clinical expertise.


The research activities at EM Imaging span from early phase, basic discovery research through product development and sponsored clinical trials for regulatory approval. Investigator sponsored research projects are an important component of EM Imaging’s research portfolio.