The UC Davis School of Medicine has launched a new interdisciplinary initiative, the Center for Diagnostic Innovation (CDxI), to bring together industry partners, clinicians, researchers and educators to develop new testing methods to improve patient health. 

A new center will build on UC Davis’ record of diagnostic innovation, such as the world’s first total-body PET scanner, EXPLORER PET/CT.
A new center will build on UC Davis’ record of diagnostic innovation, such as the world’s first total-body PET scanner, EXPLORER PET/CT.

“UC Davis School of Medicine’s achievements with diagnostic innovation are remarkable,” said Allison Brashear, dean of the School of Medicine. “With the new center, we can harness the strengths of industry partners and our school’s world-class scientists to focus on solving a wide range of diagnostic challenges that could benefit patients worldwide.”  

An estimated 70% of all medical decisions are based on laboratory tests. But according to a landmark report from the National Academy of Medicine an estimated one in 20 Americans experience a diagnostic error each year and “most people will experience at least one diagnostic error in their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences.” The center will focus on tackling these and other diagnostic needs and challenges. 

“CDxI is intended to create a collaborative community that shares the vision of better tests for better health,” said Lydia P. Howell professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “As a center, we can better brand ourselves as innovators and become a destination for partners from industry as well as from our own campus.” 

A track record of diagnostic innovation

The world’s first total-body PET scanner, EXPLORER PET/CT was developed by a team led by Professor Simon Cherry, UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Ramsey Badawi, professor of radiology in the UC Davis School of Medicine.

A new type of microscope, microscopy with UV surface excitation, or MUSE, was developed by Richard Levenson, vice chair for strategic technologies in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Kit Lam, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, invented the “one-bead-one-compound” chemistry method that revolutionized cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Howell co-directs the center with Elizabeth Anne Morris, professor and chair of the Department of Radiology.

“Creating an environment where the future of diagnostic testing can be imagined and realized is what UC Davis is all about,” said Morris. “By bringing departments together under one center, we hope to build on each other’s successes in diagnostic medicine to make a better future for our patients.”   

One of the first projects developed by CDxI is a partnership with Maurice J. Gallagher Jr., a UC Davis alumnus and CEO of Allegiant Travel Company.  

Gallagher turned to UC Davis when he was looking for a rapid screening test for COVID-19 to reopen the travel and hospitality industries. The result of the partnership, led by Nam Tran, professor of pathology in the UC Davis School of Medicine, is a novel 20-minute COVID-19 test using a mass spectrometer and a machine learning tool named MILO.   

A meetup for CDxI is planned for this summer. To learn more about the new center, including how to get involved, visit the website or contact Catherine Diaz-Khansefid, chief administrative officer for the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, at cjdiaz@ucdavis.edu.