On Target (September 1998)
On Target (September 1998)
Building a Better Probe
DOE Offers SURA Contract Extension
Making the Grade
Physics Well Done
Bisognano Becomes DOE Detailee; Looks Forward to Busy Year
Sign Up for Low Down on Lab Mission, Experimentation Process in Layman's Language
Human Resources Dept. Unveils New Staff Development Program
JLab Earns Clean Business Award
Bright Spot on the Web
Building a better probe
JLab technology improves medical science
by Jim Schultz
First, Do No Harm: This time-honored physician's motto is put to the test when cancer is involved. Although enormous strides have been made in non-invasive diagnostic medicine-such as the modern-day magnetic resonance imagers (MRIs) and nuclear medicine scanners that can pinpoint disease and other physical malfunctions-surgery is still often required to confirm the presence and extent of cancerous tumors. A team of researchers at Jefferson Laboratory hopes to tilt the odds in favor of a less physically traumatic procedure; so doing, they may vastly improve the prospects for more effective treatment of cancers of the breast, thyroid and prostate.
Five members of the Lab's Detector Group are collaborating with colleagues from the Physics Fast Electronics Group, Hampton University, the University of West Virginia Medical Center, East Carolina University Medical Center and the Duke University Medical Center on a new project. The Intra-Operative Probe Project, or IPP is underwritten by DOE and a grant from the National Science Foundation and the Nuclear and High-Energy Physics Research Center at Hampton University. The effort, begun in earnest once funding was received this past August, is based on technology derived from the sophisticated detector equipment found within the Laboratory's experimental halls.
"Probes exist. We're not the first," says Stan Majewski, head of the Lab's Detector Group and co-principal investigator for the IPP. "But we believe we can improve on existing technology. One way is to introduce imaging probes."
Other surgical probes tend to simply identify the presence of malignancy. Finding cancer isn't terribly difficult; cancer cells are ravenous for energy to support rapid growth. Typically, radioactive tracers are added to pharmaceutical solutions that are injected into patients before testing begins. As the radiopharmaceutical (tracer material) rapidly migrates to the diseased sites, detectors-surgically inserted into the body and maneuvered to suspect areas-are able to generally point out areas of cancer.
The Laboratory's probe is expected to be substantially more sensitive, with the added advantage of being able to paint a visually detailed picture of tumor sites. "It's like the guy on the beach with a metal detector," explains Drew Weisenberger, staff scientist with the Detector Group and co-investigator on the IPP. "A lot of these [detectors] just beep when you find something. Our way, you can look and actually see whatÕs there."
Over the next several months, the first intra-operative probe prototype will be developed in concert with Duke University Medical School. Although the IPP team is still finalizing the ultimate design, the probe (which could assume a final form as small as a pencil or as large as a cup) will likely be attached to some sort of moveable gantry, placed on a mobile cart and connected to an array of electronics gear, including a laptop computer. It is planned that experienced surgeons will test and evaluate various prototype configurations at hospitals in Hampton and Newport News.
In order to make the probe as widely available as possible, the IPP team hopes to produce a device that in its least expensive incarnation would cost no more than $25,000. Other, more upscale versions could run as high as $50,000.
Still to be determined is the best route to commercialization, including possible collaboration with Dilon Technologies Inc., a company in residence at the nearby Applied Research Center.
The IPP group will likely seek an industrial partner to actually bring their probe product to market. "In terms of need, technology transfer and the Laboratory's support for our work, this is the best time for this kind of project. I can't imagine better conditions," Majewski contends, "For us as individual scientists it was an obvious step in nuclear medicine. We decided that we as individuals could make a contribution..."
DOE offers SURA contract extension
The U.S. Department of Energy announced earlier this month that it will negotiate with Southeastern Universities Research Association, Inc., to extend the current multi-year performance-based contract for the management and operation of Jefferson Lab.
"This decision is based on outstanding scientific, technical, operations, environmental, safety and health, and institutional management accomplishments, as well as excellent performance in business and administrative practices at Jefferson Lab.
"I would like to commend SURA and Jefferson Lab for their 'outstanding' scientific research and management performance over the term of this contract, and for nurturing constructive partnerships with state and local governments, private industry, and academia," said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. "This high standard of performance in achieving scientific, technical and management objectives generates strong economic and educational benefits for these partners and the American people."
According to Jefferson Lab's DOE Site Office Manager, Dean Helms, this decision reflects the Department of Energy's confidence in SURA and Jefferson Lab. "The DepartmentÕs policy strongly favors [contract] competition over extensions. The highest standards of performance must be met before the Department will even consider the possibility of a contract extension," Helms explained. "We believe that high standard has been met and maintained in all mission and support areas; and the Site Office strongly recommended that the current contractÕs extension option be exercised." This recommendation was reviewed and endorsed at several levels of the DOE, culminating with Deputy Secretary of Energy, Betsy Moler.
The Department's current contract with SURA runs through September 30, 1999. The new contract extension to be negotiated would extend this agreement for an additional five years. The DOE Site Office Contracting Officer, Wayne Skinner, will begin contract renegotiations with SURA in the near future. He concurred with Helms, adding, The hard work, long hours, dedication and many achievements [of Jefferson Lab and its staff] have been noted by the DOE. The Department really presses to compete these contracts; the decision to extend the current contract reflects well on SURA and the Lab-from top to bottom."
The current contract was one of the first performance-based contracts the DOE executed with a nonprofit institution-under the Department's Contract Reform Initiative launched in February 1994. These reforms called for increased accountability for contractors, reduced government oversight practices that do not add value, and increased use of performance measures and incentives to achieve excellence and emphasize results.
A key incentive under the current agreement was an option permitting DOE to extend the contract for an additional five years based on superior performance. The Department's decision to begin negotiations preliminary to exercising the option is based in part on performance reviews under the contract. For example, in FY 1997, DOE rated SURA's science, technology, operations, ES&H, and institutional management performance as "Outstanding," the highest rating that can be achieved. Business and administrative performance was rated "Excellent," the second highest rating.
"This is a great position for a young lab to be in," Helms said. "This will provide Jefferson Lab with continued stability in its goals, management and the Lab's institutional profile. It will allow Lab staff to maintain focus, productivity and morale. Jefferson Lab's accomplishments reflect its total team effort."
Jefferson Science Associates, LLC, a joint venture of the Southeastern Universities Research Association, Inc. and PAE, manages and operates the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, or Jefferson Lab, for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.
DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit science.energy.gov.