The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has agreed to provide supplemental funding for NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes’ medical isotope production venture.
The Madison, Wis., based NorthStar uses a production method that does not require highly enriched uranium (HEU) targets. Instead, the company procures molybdenum-99 (Moly-99) via neutron capture.
Northstar will be matching that amount, per a cooperative agreement signed by the campany and the NNSA in 2013 in accordance with the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). The GTRI works to reduce HEU technologies that can be leveraged for nuclear weapons proliferation.
The NNSA’s has put in $16.1 million in contributions. The cap in the agreement is $25 million.
The FDA has not yet approved the production method, but if approved, company officials expect to be able to produce a steady U.S. supply of Moly-99.
“This award is another major milestone in our pursuit of bringing a non-HEU molybdenum-99 solution to the United States in the very near future,” said NorthStar President and CEO George P. Messina. “We’re extremely pleased with the continued support we have received from NNSA for the development of our neutron activation method of Mo-99 production. The department’s financial assistance through the cooperative agreement program and technical support via the national laboratories are invaluable resources that I believe will help us transform our ideas into commercial reality in 2015.”
NorthStar’s neutron capture process was developed with the help of scientists at the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR) in Columbia, Mo. If approved, NorthStar would continue working with MURR researchers to produce its medical isotope supply.
The technique involves irradiating molybdenum-98 targets to get downstream Moly-99. This is then flushed to create a Moly-99 solution that can then be shipped to radiopharmacies across the country. These facilities can then leverage the Moly-99 to produce technetium-99m for nuclear medicine procedures.