The University of Missouri landed the first major corporate supporter for its high-profile precision health project Friday with the announcement of a relationship with Siemens Healthineers worth $133 million over the next 10 years.
The German firm, a spin-off of tech conglomerate Siemens, will provide state-of-the-art equipment, infrastructure and support to UM System schools and projects. In exchange, MU Health will purchase new technology and replacement equipment from the company.
After presenting the deal at an event in the MU Health Patient-Centered Care Learning Center, UM System President Mun Choi said the partnership is not a straight equipment donation.
"It’s going to be a purchase from us,” Choi said. “But Siemens and the university are going to make joint investments on research and innovation projects."
Siemens Healthineers, the UM System and MU Health also established the Alliance for Precision Health, with the parties committing up to $40 million.
Late last month, MU broke ground on the $220.8 million NextGen Precision Health Institute near Hospital Drive and College Avenue. Construction should be finished in October 2021 and it's the first research building built on campus since 2004.
Simultaneously, the UM System announced the NextGen Precision Health Initiative, which will drive investments in health care technology and engineering at all four UM campuses.
About a year ago, a team from Siemens Healthineers began initial talks with MU and found both sides want to improve patient outcomes and lower the cost of health care, company President David Pacitti said.
Siemens Healthineers spun out from Siemens in 2018. Pacitti said the partnership with MU is the largest partnership formed by the young company.
“Missouri has a tremendous focus on innovation and developing new technology,” Pacitti said. “We’re an innovation company, so those two things make a lot of sense together.”
The showcase equipment being provided under the agreement is the company’s MAGNETOM Terra 7 Tesla MRI scanner. MRI machines use Tesla as a unit of magnetic strength and the 7 Tesla machine was only approved for clinical use in 2017.
The 7T, as it’s known in the industry, is more than twice as powerful as most current MRI machines, said Dr. Talissa Altes, MU School of Medicine radiology chair.
“The pictures look brighter because you have twice as much of it,” Altes said. “So that can translate into either you can make your resolution better, you can see smaller things, or you can use it to just go faster.”
Existing MRI machines already allow doctors to see structures, like bones, menisci, ligaments, blood vessels and veins. With the increased resolution from the 7T, MU researchers will be able to see brain structures that can be hard to see with existing machines, Altes said.
Last month, UM System researchers said neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease would be one of the chief areas researched at the new institute. MU researchers also have high hopes for Parkinson’s Disease research, which will be done with the 7T, Altes said.
“Some of these structures are the fundamental areas that go wrong in diseases like Parkinson’s,” Altes said. “There’s certain little structures that are the source of your problems and currently we don’t have the resolution to see them.”
Choi said MU is seeking other corporate partners, like medical device manufacturers, in other areas of the initiative. The institute will have an “innovation tower” where entrepreneurs and industry partners will conduct joint-research with MU.
The goal is to pair researchers and entrepreneurs with companies, which can develop that technology on a big scale, Choi said.
“If there are other smaller companies or entrepreneurs or large companies that want to partner on imaging technologies to be able to diagnose and cure diseases, then we have that opportunity,” Choi said.
MU Health Care CEO Jonathan Curtright said no other companies will be added to this specific alliance. Kansas City-based medical technology company Cerner also has a great relationship with MU Health and could be a company the university forms a separate alliance with, Curtright said.
Early construction of the institute began in June. Even though the institute will be built over the next two years, work with the alliance will begin immediately, Curtright said.
UM System schools will also get Siemens Healthineers' Syngo Virtual Cockpit, which allows doctors to monitor patients in imaging machines, like MRI scanners, remotely. Curtright, Altes and others said the virtual cockpit will help rural areas of the state, where image-technicians can be hard to find.
“We’re not waiting for the bricks and mortar to be complete,” Curtright said. “There’s lots and lots of work we can do.”