NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes Expanding MURR Operations, Quadrupling Molybdenum-99 Dispensing Capacity
BELOIT, Wis. – NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes LLC is enhancing its production operations at the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR) in Columbia, Missouri, adding a new filling line that will quadruple the company’s capacity there to dispense the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99).
NorthStar has contracted with Von Gahlen International Inc. to design and install the system, which will include a high-capacity DPharm unit to fill source vessels quickly, along with companion nuclear radiation containment chambers, or “hot cells.” Installation is scheduled to begin in November, with full operability targeted for the first half of 2017.
With the expansion, NorthStar is investing more than $3 million in its development of new processes for producing Mo-99 without the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and becoming the first producer of Mo-99 in the United States in more than 25 years.
Mo-99 is the parent isotope of technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the most widely used radioisotope in medical diagnostic imaging. It is used in approximately 40,000 procedures worldwide daily to diagnose and stage cancer, heart disease, infection, inflammation and other conditions.
Currently, all Mo-99 is produced overseas and most is produced in aging reactors using weapons-usable HEU, creating safety and national security concerns and the risk of product shortages. NorthStar is developing two non-uranium-based production processes that would help establish a domestic supply of Mo-99 and resolve the issues related to nuclear proliferation and the disposal of highly toxic radioactive waste.
In addition to significantly increasing dispensing capacity at MURR, the new filling line will be able to prepare source vessels containing Mo-99 generated from natural or enriched molybdenum-98 (Mo-98) targets. Enriched targets have higher concentrations of Mo-98 and produce approximately three times more Mo-99 than natural targets – 18-19 curries (Ci) compared to 6 Ci. A curie is a unit of radioactivity.
“This increased capacity will enable us to meet the anticipated demand for our non-HEU Mo-99 and our RadioGenix™ isotope separation system,” said George Messina, NorthStar chairman, president and CEO. “Our recent progress toward commercialization of our production processes, and the encouraging feedback we’ve received from the marketplace, justify this investment. We are confident it will pay dividends for years to come.
“Von Gahlen has deep knowledge of and extensive experience in radioisotope production,” he continued. “They are the perfect partners to help us complete this project.”
Neutron Capture Production Process
MURR will use the neutron capture production process being developed by NorthStar to supply Mo-99 through its Drug Master File. A Mo-98 target is bathed in neutrons, transforming a portion of it into Mo-99. The Mo-99 is extracted from the target and purified, and then moved to the NorthStar dispensing operation housed in the same facility. Waste created during Mo-99 production is minimal and relatively benign, making its disposal safe and inexpensive.
Source vessels are then filled with a Mo-99 solution using the DPharm and then shipped to customers for use with the RadioGenix™ isotope separation system. The RadioGenix™ system is used to extract the Tc-99m from the Mo-99, giving the radiopharmacy the key ingredient needed to create patient-ready doses of medical isotopes.
NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes LLC
Based in Madison, NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes LLC (northstarnm.com) was founded in 2006 to address the needs of the nuclear medicine market in the United States. A wholly owned subsidiary of NorthStar Medical Technologies LLC, the company is committed to resolving industry-wide supply challenges that have caused shortages of vital medical isotopes, negatively impacting patient care and stalling clinical research. Its patented technologies include innovative non-uranium based molybdenum-99 production methods, a novel separation chemistry system and tools for the nuclear medicine market.
Von Gahlen International Inc.
Von Gahlen International Inc. (vongahlen.com) is a wholly owned subsidiary of the company Von Gahlen based in The Netherlands. Von Gahlen is a modern, state-of-the-art manufacturer of radiation shielding products. Since its founding in 1973, Von Gahlen has become an industry leader in radiation shielding and process technology, providing the nuclear medicine community with reliable, high-quality products that meet or exceed industry standards and safety requirements. Von Gahlen installations may be found all over the world.