US-based NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes and Belgium’s Ion Beam Applications (IBA) have signed a contract under which IBA would supply up to eight Rhodotron TT300 HE electron beam accelerators to NorthStar, which has issued purchase orders for the first two units. Six more will be delivered in coming years.

NorthStar will use the accelerators for US production of the molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), which in turn is used to produce technetium-99m (Tc-99m) which is widely used to diagnose heart disease, cancer, infection, inflammation and other conditions.

Stephen Merrick, President and CEO of NorthStar said: “We plan to use these accelerators to expand production capacity, enhance production efficiencies and create manufacturing redundancies to further secure reliable, non-uranium based Mo-99 radioisotope supply for US customers and patients.” NorthStar pioneered the first US production of  Mo-99  in nearly 30 years using its RadioGenix  System. This is an innovative, high tech separation platform that is approved for processing non-uranium/non-highly enriched uranium based Mo-99.

Before the availability of RadioGenix technology, the US supply chain for Mo-99 has been subject to frequent and sometimes severe interruptions which negatively impact patient healthcare. It was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in February 2018 and is the only on-site, automated isotope separation system of its kind for use with non-uranium/non-highly enriched uranium based Mo-99.
Electron beam accelerators are an effective method of producing Mo-99 that can provide customised scheduling flexibility and minimise supply risk, said NorthStar Senior Vice President and Chief Science Office Dr James T Harvey. “Like other Mo-99 production processes that we employ, the neutron knock-out (photo transmutation) process for electron accelerator production of Mo-99 is non-uranium based. It uses Mo-100 (which is enriched to more than 95% Mo-100) that is originally derived from natural molybdenum. The enriched product is then bombarded in electron beam accelerators to knock-off the extra neutron to form Mo-99.” The typical cost of a Rhodotron TT300 HE is approximately €6 million per machine. The first two machines will be delivered to a planned 10,000 square foot facility in Beloit, Wisconsin, and will be in operation in 2021.