About Us

Research Mission

The Contrast Agent Molecular Engineering Laboratory (CAMEL) develops chemical agents that change the contrast of biomedical images. These contrast agents are designed to respond to molecular biomarkers of biological processes and pathologies. This molecular information is used to predict response to therapy before the therapy is applied, monitor the delivery of therapy to targeted tissues, and evaluate the early-stage effects of the therapy. These diagnostic methods that affect the choice of therapy are designed to provide personalized medicine for each individual patient.

CAMEL primarily focuses on the development of contrast agents for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). In particular, CAMEL has developed a new type of MRI contrast agent that can detect molecular biomarkers through Chemical Exchange Saturation Transfer (CEST). CAMEL has also developed CEST MRI methods for pre-clinical and clinical studies, and has also developed methods that rapidly synthesize CEST contrast agents. CAMEL also develops other molecular imaging methods with particular interest in quantitative imaging and clinical trnaslation.

CAMEL is affiliated with the Department of Medical Imaging, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Department of Biomedical EngineeringUniversity of Arizona Cancer Center, and the Institute for Collaborative BioResearch (BIO5) at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. These affiliations reflect the interdisciplinary research approach undertaken by CAMEL and the supportive environment for biomedical research at the University of Arizona.

Teaching Mission

CAMEL supports the teaching and training mission of the University of Arizona. The CAMEL laboratories provide an outstanding training environment for graduate and undergraduate students from a variety of disciplines, including chemistry & biochemistry, cancer biology, biomedical engineering, and pharmacy.


The concept of CAMEL was inspired by the Imaging in 2020 meeting held in 2001 at the Jackson Lake Lodge, Jackson, WY. CAMEL was first established in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University in 2003.  Dr. Marty Pagel started this research program after leaving the pharmaceutical industry to return to academia, to contribute to the high-risk high-reward field of molecular imaging.  CAMEL pioneered the development of responsive CEST MRI contrast agents in 2003-2005, and demonstrated the first in vivo MRI studies with paramagnetic CEST agents in 2006-2007.  CAMEL also developed new synthesis methods to create new types of MRI contrast agents. 

In 2008, Dr. Pagel moved CAMEL to the University of Arizona, in Tucson AZ.  This transition provided CAMEL with resources and opportunities to collaborate with cancer biology researchers in the University of Arizona Cancer Center, and access to resources in the Departments of Medical Imaging and Chemistry & Biochemistry.  The combination of these diverse resources and multidisciplinary collaborators has been essential to the continued productivity of CAMEL.  Furthermore, the collaborative research environment at the University of Arizona has greatly facilitated the expansion of CAMEL's research interests into clinical imaging.  CAMEL has found an ideal home in the desert!