The University of Winnipeg along with partners in Prairie Isotope Production Enterprise are optimistic that as early as this fall. Technetium-99m (Tc-99m) can be produced on a commercial scale, providing a Made-in-Manitoba solution to local and regional future medical isotope needs. PIPE is a non-profit consortium, between UWinnipeg, Pinawa's Acsion Industries, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and through it, Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg.
An affordable and secure supply of Tc-99m is critical in that it is used to help detect cancers, blocked arteries and heart disease in millions of people around the world each year.
The federal government launched a process last June to find alternatives to replace the isotope supply from the deteriorating Chalk River nuclear facility. The Manitoba PIPE plan is one of four lead projects across the country selected through this process. PIPE's solution uses linear accelerator technology rather than full-scale nuclear reactors or cyclotron technology.
The Manitoba solution, using linear accelerator technology, is a clean and economical alternative to the conventional reactor process and promises to be commercially viable.
Major advantages of the Manitoba linear accelerator solution compared to nuclear reactors include a lack of nuclear waste, the speed with which it can be commercially available and significantly lower costs. While cyclotron-based approaches have thus far shown an ability to produce Tc-99m, they face barriers to doing so at efficient pricing levels. The Manitoba linear-accelerator model promises to compete with existing technologies at a similar or lower product cost.
PIPE reports its scientific viability of using linear accelerators for medical isotopes to the federal government in March. Following that step, UWinnipeg with partners hopes to establish a commercial entity to begin production of medical isotopes which could begin as early as this fall, 2012.
Using an upgraded accelerator currently located in Pinawa, a Manitoba-based commercial entity could produce enough medical isotopes to provide the needs in the Province as well as product for export to other North American markets.
BACKGROUND – ISOTOPES
Over 90% of the world's Mo-99 is produced by just five aging reactors, with the vast majority being produced at Canada’s National Research Universal (NRU) reactor at Chalk River. The Canadian government has announced that Chalk-River will cease medical radioisotope production in 2015/2016.
In 2010 the federal government announced a non-reactor-based Isotope Supply Contribution Program and funded four programs, including the made-in-Manitoba solution: The Prairie Isotope Production Enterprise (PIPE) in Manitoba received $4 million to research the viability of accelerator-based Mo-99 production for medical use.
Dr. Jeff Martin, UWinnipeg physicist and a lead member of the PIPE team, is spearheading research into the manufacture of Mo-99 radioisotopes.
Diane Poulin, Communications Officer, The University of Winnipeg
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