Rendering of IAMI
(Photo credit: Architecture49)

Canada to build medical isotope research and development center

November 07, 2018
by John R. Fischer, Staff Reporter
The Canadian government has pledged to invest in funding for the construction of an advanced medical isotope research and development center that will comprise certified infrastructure for isotope production.

Announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Canada’s particle accelerator center, TRIUMF, the public investment, along with contributions by project partners BC Cancer Foundation and the University of British Columbia, will provide a total of $31.8 million for the architectural setup of the Institute for Advanced Medical Isotopes (IAMI), designed to expand Canada’s position in the nuclear medicine market.

“The IAMI facility will be a nexus for multidisciplinary expertise from research and industry and will contain both a state-of-the-art, high-capacity TR-24 cyclotron and modern radiopharmaceutical production laboratories,” Dr. Paul Schaffer, associate laboratory director of TRIUMF's Life Sciences Division, told HCB News. “Its location at TRIUMF will enable unfettered access to some of the unique isotopes that can only be produced using TRIUMF’s high-energy particle accelerator infrastructure, including isotopes such as actinium-225 (225Ac), that are seeing dramatically increasing global demand.”

The IAMI project is expected to total more than $50 million with the addition of equipment and philanthropic funding, leading to an integrated set of labs and a TR-24 medical cyclotron, one of the most technologically advanced commercial cyclotrons in the world, housed within the finished facility.

Included in its offerings are next-generation cancer therapies for improving Canadian health outcomes and opening up access to radionuclide therapy markets, accelerated global drug development for early-stage trials with infrastructure for radiotracer production, a training platform for young researchers, and certified infrastructure for isotope production to aid industry partners in developing new diagnostic and therapeutic substances.

The institute will also secure a local supply of several important medical isotopes, including technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the shortage of which has set off a crisis within the nuclear medicine community, leading to delays in necessary exams for patients. The availability of the radioisotope is expected to further be strained in the first half of November due to the simultaneous shutdowns of Australia’s OPAL reactor and South Africa’s NTP Radioisotopes facility.

“Leveraging a made-in-Canada target technology, the Institute for Advanced Medical Isotopes’ (IAMI) TR-24 cyclotron is capable of producing approximately 1000 Tc-99m patient doses in a single, 6-hour irradiation,” said Schaffer. “With a 6-hour half-life, Tc-99m produced at IAMI can be distributed to hospitals as needed.”

The aim, according to Schaffer, is for IAMI to act as a regional source of Tc-99m to supply to other centers for their respective areas, an endeavor that will carried out with the help of ARTMS Products, a spinoff company of TRIUMF and its collaborators that has partnered with Alliance Medical in the U.K. to begin supplying British patients with Tc-99m in mid-2019.

As part of this objective, IAMI will supply additional isotopes to the TRIUMF-UBC neuroimaging program at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, to be used as personalized medicine for patients with addiction, dementia and other mental health issues, as well as PET isotopes for thousands of PET scans annually for cancer patients at UBC and BC cancer sites.

The facility is expected to be fully completed by March 2020 with full functionality established toward the end of 2020.