by Thomas Dworetzky
, Contributing Reporter | February 25, 2019
The DOE has finished its evaluations and picked four U.S. companies “to begin negotiations for potential new cooperative agreement awards.”
The winning applicants were among those responding to a “funding opportunity” to make Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) without using highly-enriched uranium (HEU).
“Mo-99 is such a critical tool in healthcare. Doctors count on it every day,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in the Department of Energy statement, adding, “this industry outreach helps to develop a reliable domestic supply of a vital medical isotope, reduce dependence on foreign imports, and bring new opportunity to the heartland.”
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At present, the U.S. does not have a domestic commercial supply of Mo-99, and depends on importing it from foreign producers, mostly located in Europe, South Africa and Australia – or relying on a small amount created at DOE national laboratories.
The four U.S. firms about to begin negotiating include, NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes in Beloit, Wisconsin; SHINE Medical Technologies in Janesville, Wisconsin; Northwest Medical Isotopes in Corvallis, Oregon; and Niowave in Lansing, Michigan.
The funding available for the cooperative agreements could be as much as $15 million per company, with industry partners matching the awarded amounts.
DOE also funds, in its labs, work to advance the progress of Mo-99 production without HEU.
The challenge of producing Mo-99 without HEU is part of the worldwide challenge of production of the material by any means in the face of aging nuclear plants and growing demand.
In fact, in July, 2018, Congress was urged
by SNMMI, OEMs, advocacy groups and nuclear medicine providers worldwide to provide money toward a domestic supply of Mo-99 in the U.S.
The group's letter called for the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development to approve a provision in both the House of Representatives and Senate Fiscal Year 2019 Energy and Water Appropriation bills that would help fund production of Mo-99 as part of the National Nuclear Safety Administration’s medical isotope program.
“We are experiencing problems with international sources due to various technical reasons. Mo-99 and Tc-99m are used every day in the clinic, from cancer staging to the detection of cardiac disease to neurological evaluation,” Satoshi Minoshima, the president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging and one of the signatories of the letter, told HCB News at the time. “It is critical for the U.S. to develop sustainable sources of Mo-99 so that we will not be reliant on foreign sources for a product that is essential to healthcare in the U.S.”