La raza de Moly consigue el alza $35 millones

por Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | January 25, 2011
The Canadian government handed out $35 million Monday to four research teams racing to find a way to create medical isotopes without using weapons-grade uranium or relying on the world's aging research reactors, the Montreal Gazette reported.

"These investments will help us move towards a more diversified supply chain -- one that is robust and less vulnerable to disruption," said Christian Paradis, Canada's minister of natural resources.

The four teams hope to use cyclotrons or linear accelerators instead of nuclear reactors to beef up the supply of molybdenum-99, the parent of technetium-99m, an isotope with a short half-life that's widely used in nuclear medicine scans of the heart.

The federally subsidized program to find alternative sources of medical isotopes was announced last June, Canadian Light Source Inc., one of the grant winners, said.

The aim of the project is to protect a fragile supply chain. Last year, two of the world's major producers of the isotopes, the aging National Research Universal reactor in Chalk River, Ontario and the High Flux Reactor in Petten, Netherlands, were both shut down for months of repairs, leading to global shortages of the isotopes.

The SNM previously estimated nearly 20,000 patients in the United States might have had to cancel or reschedule their exams during the height of the crisis last year.

"There are currently five reactors in the world, and most of them are 40 years old," Gregory Delecaut, a spokesman for National Institute for Radioelements, which is helping developing a new reactor in the south of France, told DOTmed News last year. "In the near future, they will be closed, and there will be a problem in the supply chain."

The four teams have around 15 months to develop proof of concept plans to show the safety and viability of scaling up isotope production using linear accelerators and cyclotrons. While the technical challenges promise to be daunting, most groups hope to be finished by April 2012, the Gazette reported.

The groups all have their own strategies.

A consortium including TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, and Advanced Cyclotron Systems Inc. in Richmond, British Columbia, both hope to use cyclotrons to produce Tc-99m.

TRIUMF and its partners, which netted $6 million, said the process works by bombarding Mo-100 with protons, causing it to transmute into Tc-99m.

ACSI, which got $11 million, plans to run two pilot facilities with high power TR-24 commercial cyclotrons. Each site would supply 15 percent of Canada's medical isotope requirements, the group said.

ACSI ultimately envisions a network of cyclotrons across the country within easy reach of most hospitals. The cyclotrons could also be used to supply PET and SPECT radioisotopes.

Prairie Isotope Production Enterprise in Winnipeg and Canadian Light Source are each focusing on linear accelerators.

Canadian Light Source, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, said the process works as follows: the linear accelerator speeds up electrons and slams them against metal filters to generate X-rays, which irradiate a target made of Mo-100. The X-rays knock out a single neutron from each atom in the metal, turning it into Mo-99, which then is converted into Tc-99m.