Amsterdam UMC Imaging Center: the future of healthcare
The new Amsterdam UMC Imaging Center offers cutting-edge medical imaging, the latest innovations in diagnosis-support, a uniquely equipped lab and the ability to manufacture medical isotopes. Learn how the entire medical world can benefit from this new state-of-the-art centre in Amsterdam.
A state-of-the-art facility with cutting-edge technology
Amsterdam UMC Imaging Center adds unique features to the Netherlands’ already thriving health and life sciences cluster. It is by far the biggest concentration of cutting-edge medical imaging techniques in Europe. As home to the latest innovations in diagnosis-support, it also allows radiologists and nuclear physicians to better examine the anatomical structures and physiological, metabolic and molecular processes of the human body. This enables them to select the right treatment for the right patient at the right time. A uniquely equipped lab will speed up medical and pharmaceutical research and help reduce the costs of developing new medicines and treatments. To top it all off, a well-established radio-pharmaceutical manufacturer ensures the availability of medical isotopes.
Guus van Dongen and Bert Windhorst, professors working within the Department of Radiology & Nuclear Medicine at the Amsterdam University Medical Center (Amsterdam UMC), say that “the Imaging Center is a nucleus for improvement of all health-related activities in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area and beyond”.
Amsterdam’s reputation as a leader in life sciences and health
It all started with realising that patients who were going to get an MRI-, CT-, or PET-scan were able to choose from 20 different locations in the Amsterdam Area alone. Among those locations were both the VUmc and AMC, which were then still operating as independent academic medical centres. By creating one imaging centre, where all techniques are available to support diagnoses, Van Dongen and Windhorst concluded that many challenges would be solved.
The new Amsterdam UMC Imaging Center allows patients suffering from diseases such as cancer, failures of the immune system, neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s or cardiovascular diseases to visit just one location for all their necessary medical imaging activities. This helps to reduce waiting lists, helps to improve early diagnosis and treatment selection, and better plan and coordinate clinical treatment. The centre has also made it easier to attract the investments and grants needed to purchase the latest innovations in the field of imaging technologies and to create a sustainable building suitable to house and facilitate these.
Imaging increases the value of healthcare
Professor Van Dongen explains how imaging became their main focus: “At first, we were very focused on improving the infrastructure, but during our discussions with stakeholders - including patient organisations - our perception changed. It became a common belief that imaging should be a more dominant factor in the value chain of healthcare. Today’s imaging techniques make it possible to diagnose more efficiently and earlier, and therefore to personalise medicine. You are able to diagnose the effect of a treatment on a patient in real-time and reduce the risk that it will not be effective on that person. Research shows that only 40% of treatments are fully functional, the rest are suboptimal at best. On top of that, better imaging also helps to reduce costs.”
Combining the Netherlands’ leading academic hospitals
The change in perception turned out to be a founding pillar of the Amsterdam UMC Imaging Center. Gradually, financing* was granted and as the plans began to materialise, the realisation grew that the project should also be a starting point for the modernisation of the university campus with its academic hospital on the edge of the Zuidas, the financial district of Amsterdam.
“This example shows that we are able to organise the health cluster much more efficiently. Actually, because the two academic medical centres had to cooperate so intensively in creating this, the discussions inspired our board to start thinking of merging into the present Amsterdam UMC.”
Medical isotopes help patients across the Netherlands
A tour of the facility reveals 4 cyclotrons located in the strong-walled basement. These are small particle accelerators, designed for the production of medical isotopes. The use of medical isotopes is an essential element for both disease-specific diagnostic imaging and nuclear therapy. By producing isotopes on location, the Imaging Center will be fully self-sufficient and able to ensure the supply of the tracers. Moreover, these cyclotrons are providing tracers for more than 50,000 patients treated in Dutch hospitals on a yearly basis.
The 3 floors above the basement are designated for the actual imaging and treatment of patients. This is the heart of the operation, and estimates show that at least 100,000 patient scans will be made here each year. This equals the combined total of all the other medical imaging centres in the Amsterdam Area.
Tracer Center Amsterdam and LaserLab
The third floor will house the Tracer Center Amsterdam, where medical tracers are produced under highly controlled and sterile laboratory conditions. They are used to trace diseases on a molecular level and in real-time, to follow the medicines in the body during treatment, and to observe the patient’s reaction to treatment.
The top floor contains the LaserLab. This is where cutting-edge optical laser techniques are developed, a speciality for which Amsterdam UMC is known worldwide. “We create solutions for real-time guidance for surgeons and operating room staff during operations. The success rate of all clinical treatments improves because of this.”
Bringing together top scientists from all over the world
Because of the concentration of special capabilities, skills and technologies, the Amsterdam UMC Imaging Center is a magnet for international collaboration. On a daily basis, the brightest minds in the imaging sector apply to be a part of the project. Moreover, the biggest and most influential HealthTech and pharmaceutical companies want to collaborate – and many are already doing so. Van Dongen sums up his outlook on the future:
“By using our research-infrastructure and networks, pharmaceutical companies are able to accelerate the development process of drugs and treatments considerably, by picking up those with the highest potential for medical impact. Also, it enables them to establish if a medicine is not doing what it is expected to do at an early stage.
My estimate is that this can shorten the development process by a couple of years on average. Mind you, a successfully tested medicine will be available sooner. Also, the costs of development - that can amount to more than one billion US dollars - are reduced considerably, shortening the payback time for the industry. In combination with the arrival of the European Medicines Agency, Amsterdam is the centre in Europe for the development of new drugs and treatments. This creates exciting new possibilities for the future growth of bio and life sciences in the Amsterdam Area.”
*Amsterdam UMC Imaging Center is made possible because of contributions from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the City of Amsterdam, the Department of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands, and the Province of Noord-Holland. It is actively supported by Amsterdam Economic Board and amsterdam&partners.