BELOIT, Wis. – NorthStar Medical Technologies LLC, parent company of NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes LLC, has received additional matching funds from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA), bringing to $11.1 million the total funded for NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes’ accelerator method of producing the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99).
The award supports the process’ continued advancement toward commercialization and recognizes NorthStar’s progress toward its goal of offering multiple sources of Mo-99 produced in the United States using complementary processes that do not involve highly enriched uranium (HEU).
The award advances a $50 million cooperative agreement between the two organizations in which NorthStar raised $25 million that will be matched dollar-for-dollar by DOE/NNSA upon full funding of the agreement. NNSA had already fully funded a separate $50 million cooperative agreement supporting NorthStar’s neutron activation Mo-99 production method, which also does not use HEU as the target material.
Mo-99 is the parent isotope of technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the most widely used radioisotope in medical diagnostic imaging. Tc-99m is used in approximately 40 million procedures worldwide each year to diagnose and stage cancer, heart disease, infection, inflammation and other conditions. But while the United States accounts for roughly half of that demand, no Mo-99 has been produced domestically since 1989. All Mo-99 is currently produced overseas, much of it in aging reactors using weapons-usable HEU, creating safety and national security concerns and the risk of product shortages.
Both of NorthStar’s production methods use safe, non-radioactive target material and an external radiation source to convert a naturally occurring isotope of molybdenum into Mo-99 suitable for use in NorthStar’s proprietary RadioGenix™ isotope separation system. There, it decays to create Tc-99m. Both processes produce a low-volume, benign waste stream, making them “greener” than all other processes that use uranium-based targets.
Accelerator production is currently the most environmentally friendly method of Mo-99 generation; an electron beam from a linear accelerator (LINAC), rather than a fission reactor, is used as a radiation source to drive a reaction that converts molybdenum-100 to Mo-99. The neutron capture method uses neutrons from a fission reactor to convert molybdenum-98 to Mo-99.
In pairing the two production methods, NorthStar will ensure a steady supply of Mo-99 by mitigating the disruptions commonly experienced by single-method producers when faced with unexpected equipment downtime.
“These complementary production methods will establish NorthStar as the market leader in generating non-HEU Mo-99 and the resulting Tc-99m needed for diagnosing patients,” said NorthStar President and CEO George Messina. “True end-to-end, in-house domestic production and the benign, low-volume waste stream provide the very real potential for NorthStar to become the low-cost producer of Mo-99 for years to come. The commercialization of the accelerator production method creates numerous advantages for NorthStar, its customers and, most importantly, patients. NorthStar is poised to be the first producer of Mo-99 in the United States in more than 25 years.”
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.