Australia could supply nuclear medicine to USA

16 June 2009

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation has set up a deal with US medical imaging company Lantheus Medical Imaging to supply the medical isotope molybdenum-99, once Australian regulatory processes for production are finalised.

ANSTO is currently the only organisation in the world to produce Mo-99 from low-enriched uranium (LEU) targets at its OPAL reactor. The arrangement will position Lantheus as the first company to supply the nuclear medicine Technetium-99m (Tc-99m) derived from LEU Mo-99 to the US market. Tc-99m is used in approximately 80 percent of all nuclear medicine procedures. Mo-99 has a half-life of 66 hours; Tc-99m has a half-life of six hours.

The Mo-99 supply chain has been hit by the indefinite shutdown of the Chalk River reactor in Canada in May. It produces one third of the global nuclear medicine market.

Don Kiepert, president and CEO of Lantheus Medical Imaging, Inc said the supply arrangement marks a significant step in the advancement of medical imaging.

“For the first time in industry history, we will be able to offer the nuclear medicine community in North America a LEU-derived Mo-99 through our TechneLite generator line,” said Mr Kiepert. “We have been actively exploring new options for securing Mo-99 produced using LEU, and in ANSTO we have found the ideal partner with which to achieve that strategic goal.”

“The efforts of ANSTO are more important now than ever before as our industry navigates through the challenges created by the outage of the Chalk River reactor over the next several months. We are pleased to be working with the team from ANSTO to bring their LEU based Mo-99 into the global supply chain during this time of critical medical isotope need for patient care.”

ANSTO is working closely with nuclear safety and health regulators, both domestically and overseas, to expedite all necessary approvals to allow long-term production and export of medical isotopes. Lantheus Medical Imaging, together with ANSTO, is working closely with the FDA and Health Canada to achieve the necessary LEU Mo-99 approvals for the US and Canadian markets.


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