Eden Radioisotopes secures reactor project funding for medical isotope production
May 22, 2019
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., May 22, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Eden Radioisotopes, LLC, an Albuquerque, NM startup company, is pleased to announce an investment agreement with Abo Empire, LLC, a Yates Family company. This investment funds the company project to build a reactor of less than 2MW in New Mexico for the purpose of producing medical isotopes, primarily Molybdenum-99. Known as Moly-99 for short, this isotope is a critical raw material for Technetium-99m, used extensively in medical molecular imaging, also known as nuclear medicine, around the world.
"We're thrilled to back the Eden team in their mission to provide the world with a dependable supply of Moly-99," says Ryan Price, Vice President of Abo Empire. "This project checks many boxes for us: it diversifies family investment through the economic development of the State of New Mexico, creates high-paying, highly technical jobs for our youth to grow into, and does a lot of good for a lot of people."
"Molecular Imaging is a $4 billion a year global market," says Chris Wagner, Eden's Chief Operating Officer and former Vice President at both Nordion and Mallinckrodt (n/k/a Curium). "There are 40 million diagnostic molecular imaging procedures performed worldwide each year, of which 80 percent use Technetium-99m, with 90 percent of those being either cardiac or cancer-related. While the imaging procedures performed in the United States represent more than half of the global use of Moly-99, there is no domestic supplier and no readily available alternative for molecular imaging. Reliability of Moly-99 supply is vitally important to US healthcare."
Moly-99 is used by radiopharmaceutical manufacturers worldwide to produce Molybdenum-99/Technetium-99m Generators, which are then shipped to hospitals, clinics, and radiopharmacies. As Moly-99 decays to Technetium-99m, it is then used to make individual patient doses for a variety of diagnostic imaging procedures.
For the past 20 years, the global supply of Moly-99 has been precarious at best. Only five reactors around the world have borne primary responsibility for Moly-99 production; in Canada, The Netherlands, South Africa, Belgium, and Australia. Due to age, these reactors have experienced numerous unplanned outages for repairs, causing shortages and price spikes. The Canadian reactor has already begun the decommissioning process, while the Dutch reactor is almost 60 years old and could soon be reaching the end of its useful life. "Together they represent more than 60 percent of the global supply capacity of Moly-99. With the Canadian reactor now offline, should The Netherlands reactor ever incur a long-term outage before sufficient new replacement capacity becomes available, the molecular imaging industry could experience challenging global supply shortages," says Wagner.
While Moly-99's short half-life makes it well-suited for the medical industry, it also means the isotope cannot be stockpiled. One reactor's unplanned outage quickly translates into a supply shortage for Technetium-99m patients, delaying urgently needed diagnoses.
To help meet this demand, Eden has exclusively licensed a patented reactor technology from Sandia National Laboratories to make Moly-99 in large quantities. Dick Coats, Ph.D., Eden's Chief Technology Officer and retired Sandian, helped develop Eden's Moly-99 reactor based on technology he helped research in the DOE-funded Sandia medical isotope production program of the late 1990s. Dr. Coats comments, "Eden's reactor has an all-target, variable-size core of low-enriched uranium which only requires maintenance downtime measured in hours, not days. Should demand require it, the entire reactor core of Moly-99 targets could be processed, generating more than 10,000 Curies of Moly-99 per week, making Eden's small 2MW reactor unique." Coats notes, "For comparison, the Eden reactor is similar in size of the research reactors on many university campuses in the US today."
"Larger reactors, from 10MW to 200MW, aren't cost-effective for medical isotope production. Their purpose is for a multitude of research and happen to also make medical isotopes. When you add in fuel costs, downtime, maintenance, personnel and simultaneous large-scale operations, a typical reactor operator cannot make money on medical isotopes alone," comments Coats. "I've been involved with reactors my entire career. There has never been a reactor system designed just to make Moly-99 and other medical isotopes. Our efficiency drives our economy," said Coats.
Wagner says, "We feel that with proven reactor and Moly-99 target technology, Eden has the most potential for success in the market." Eden anticipates entering production in four years with plans to build their facility in New Mexico, which has a workforce familiar with nuclear activities due to nearby Sandia & Los Alamos National Laboratories and URENCO USA's uranium enrichment facility. Eden will employ approximately 100 people.
About Eden Radioisotopes, LLC (Eden)
Eden is leveraging science and innovation developed by Sandia National Laboratories to build a 2MW reactor in New Mexico for the production of medical isotopes for diagnostic molecular imaging and therapeutic uses. Eden is committed to providing a reliable supply of medical isotopes such as Molybdenum-99 for healthcare patients worldwide.
SOURCE Eden Radioisotopes, LLC