Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on 1 November announced funding for construction of the Institute for Advanced Medical Isotopes (IAMI) within the campus of the TRIUMF national particle accelerator at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. TRIUMF is owned and operated as a joint venture by a consortium of universities. With investment from the Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia, and contributions from TRIUMF, the BC Cancer Foundation and the University of British Columbia, the construction of the IAMI facility is valued at CAD31.8 million ($24.3m). With additional equipment and philanthropic funding, the total value of the project will be more than CAD50 million. Ottawa is providing $10.2 million, the provincial government $12.2 million, TRIUMF $5.4 million, and the BC Cancer Foundation and UBC $2 million each. Trudeau said: “We know that for our country to lead in an ever-evolving economy and create the jobs of tomorrow, we have to invest in our scientists and in the institutions that support them.”
IAMI will be a state-of-the-art facility for research into next-generation medical isotopes and radiopharmaceuticals. It will comprise an integrated series of labs and a TR-24 medical cyclotron supplied by British Columbia-based Advanced Cyclotron Systems. IAMI promises to secure a local supply of several important medical isotopes, including critical imaging isotope 99mTc, and to enable Canadian access to the global 99mTc market.
By developing targeted radionuclide therapies for metastatic cancers, IAMI researchers will place Canada at the centre of fast-growing field, and allow Canadian access to radionuclide therapy markets, TRIUMF said. IAMI will also provide a unique infrastructure for radiotracer production, positioning Canada as a key player in this space. IAMI will provide certified infrastructure for isotope production, enabling the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic substances by industry partners. The Institute will also establish a powerful training platform for young researchers.
In April, Canadian science, health care and nuclear sector organisations launched an initiative aiming to ensure the continued production of medical isotopes following the final closure of the National Research Universal reactor at the Chalk River site which has been placed into a "state of storage" prior to decommissioning. The reactor, which produced about 40% of world supply of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), ceased production in October 2016 but remained on standby "in case of a significant shortage which could not be mitigated by other means". Research reactors in Australia, Europe, Russia and South Africa have since met demand.