NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes Awarded Additional Funding from National Nuclear Security Administration
Cooperative Agreement Supports Company’s Neutron Capture Process for Non-Uranium-Based Production of Vital Medical Radioisotope Molybdenum-99
MADISON, Wis. – NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes LLC has been awarded $5.2 million in additional funding by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The grant supports the continued development and commercialization of the company’s neutron capture process for producing the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) without the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU).
Under the terms of the cooperative agreement between the two parties, originally signed in 2013, NorthStar is matching the contribution. The DOE/NNSA cooperative agreements for domestic Mo-99 partners is awarded on a 50 percent/50 percent cost-sharing basis, up to a total of $25 million. This cooperative agreement now has a total value of more than $32.2 million, with more than $16.1 million contributed by DOE/NNSA.
The agreement is part of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which was established by the NNSA to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological material located at civilian sites worldwide and to minimize the use of HEU in civilian applications. When approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the neutron capture process will help achieve NNSA’s goal to establish reliable, domestic production of Mo-99 without the use of HEU. Mo-99 is the parent isotope of technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the most widely used radioisotope in medical diagnostic imaging.
NorthStar President and Chief Executive Officer George P. Messina said, “This award is another major milestone in our pursuit of bringing a non-HEU molybdenum-99 solution to the United States in the very near future. We’re extremely pleased with the continued support we have received from NNSA for the development of our neutron activation method of Mo-99 production. The department’s financial assistance through the cooperative agreement program and technical support via the national laboratories are invaluable resources that I believe will help us transform our ideas into commercial reality in 2015.”
Technetium-99m is used in more than 13 million nuclear medicine procedures annually in the United States alone, including evaluations of the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, lymph nodes, gallbladder, spleen, bones and blood flow. Currently, nearly all Mo-99 is generated using weapons-useable HEU at aging facilities located outside of the United States, leading to product shortages and creating safety and national security concerns.
The neutron capture process being developed by NorthStar, in collaboration with the University of Missouri, Research Reactor (MURR) in Columbia, Mo., would help establish the first domestic source of Mo-99 since 1990. The production process is non-uranium- and non-fission-based and generates only a benign waste stream. NorthStar has applied for FDA approval of the neutron capture process so it can begin commercial production of Mo-99 at MURR.
NorthStar’s neutron capture Mo-99 production process starts with Mo-98, a stable molybdenum isotope found in nature. The Mo-98 is irradiated at MURR to produce Mo-99, which is then dissolved into a solution. The solution is packaged and delivered to radiopharmacies, where NorthStar’s intelligent isotope separation system – the RadioGenix, the first true technological breakthrough in Mo-99/Tc-99m systems in nearly 45 years – is used to extract Tc-99m for use in nuclear medicine procedures.
NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes LLC
Based in Madison, Wis., 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.
National Nuclear Security Administration
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA (nnsa.energy.gov) is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the United States’ nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the United States and abroad. Follow NNSA news via the agency’s Blog and on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.