Agata Exner Named Director of the CWRU Center for Imaging Research (CCIR)

Agata Exner, PhD

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce Agata Exner, PhD, has been appointed director of Case Western Reserve University’s Center for Imaging Research (CCIR). Dr. Exner serves as the Henry Willson Payne Professor and vice chair of basic research in the Department of Radiology and holds an adjunct appointment in the Department of Physics at Toronto Metropolitan University. 

Innovation is at the core of Dr. Exner’s research approach to developing targeted therapies and improving cancer detection. 

A globally acclaimed expert in molecular imaging and theranostics, Dr. Exner's research, spanning nanomedicine and biomedical ultrasound, is dedicated to advancing novel platform technologies for molecular imaging and image-guided drug delivery.

At the forefront of this research, Dr. Exner's team has been instrumental in developing sophisticated long-circulating ultrasound-responsive targeted nanobubbles tailored for diverse biomedical applications. These nanobubbles exhibit versatility, holding promise as specialized agents for the early diagnosis of cancer cells, companion diagnostics for predicting tumor heterogeneity and vascular permeability, and as cell-specific cavitation agents in ultrasound-mediated therapy. She is recognized for her expertise in long-acting, intratumoral drug delivery formulations and has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for over 19 years.

Dr. Exner will build upon the foundation established by previous leaders of the center— Jeff Duerk, PhD, who led the center until 2014, and Jim Basilion, PhD, who led the center until this past year. 

Dr. Exner shared her thoughts about the CCIR and her new leadership role. 

I am deeply honored to take on the role of leading the CCIR alongside executive director Katherine Gullett MBA. For nearly two decades, the CCIR, supported by the terrific Imaging Research Core, has been a leader in the advancement of groundbreaking imaging technologies.

—Agata Exner, PhD

The CCIR  mission, driven by a culture of innovation, is to lead the next generation of imaging research to improve disease prevention, diagnosis and therapies by catalyzing biomedical imaging innovations through transformative imaging research.

One of CCIR's notable contributions has been the Imaging Research Core (IRC), directed by Chris Flask, PhD. Over the past six years, the IRC has played a pivotal role, offering $3.4 million in imaging services to investigators across the region. In the last three years alone, the IRC has supported 184 grant awards for 99 investigators from 30 departments and institutions, including Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth and University Hospitals. Recognized as an Institutional Core at CWRU in 2017, the IRC continues to evolve, showcasing a commitment to expansion and technological upgrades through recent equipment purchases and updates.

Guided by a bold, strategic plan and building upon the rich history of pioneering translational imaging research, Dr. Exner's vision for the next phase of the center is to expand partnerships and catalyze biomedical imaging innovation. This collaborative-centric approach leverages the expertise of faculty in biomedical engineering, radiology, molecular biology and microbiology who are experts in their respective fields, which include cancer, cardiovascular health, neurology, rare diseases and ophthalmology.

As we enter the era of immense promise and innovation propelled by AI and scientific progress, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with our outstanding faculty, trainees, and staff to shape the future of imaging in medicine. 

With continual advancements in cost-effective technology, I look forward to the field of biomedical imaging shifting toward providing highly accessible diagnostic technologies and minimally invasive image guided therapies for all patient populations.

—Agata Exner, PhD

Instrumental in helping guide this new chapter will be Katherine Gullet, MBA, who serves as the executive director of the center. She will play an integral role in developing, implementing and managing strategic initiatives outlined in the strategic plan.  

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Exner as she leads the Center in its next chapter. 


Stan Gerson, MD

Dean and Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs

School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University