The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (Kaeri) announced on 3 August that it has built a system that automatically produces two types of zirconium-89 (Zr-89), a radioactive isotope for cancer diagnosis. Zr-89 has a half-life of 3.3 days, which is relatively longer than other isotopes, so it can stay in the body for a long time in imaging diagnostics such as PET (positron emission tomography).
Using these properties, it can be effectively applied to research such as cancer diagnosis, immunotherapy, and confirmation of the behaviour of nanomaterials in the body.
A research team led by Kaeri’s Dr Park Jeong-hoon has developed an automated device that can simultaneously mass-produce two types of pharmaceutical raw materials in the form of Zr-89 oxalate and chloride. By using the self-developed nuclide separation program, the production separation process of zirconium-89 can be automated, and zirconium-89 can be produced with only one button operation. He explained that both formulations, including Zr-89 oxalate and chloride, produced using an automated device are the highest quality in the world with a high purity of 99.9%.
The daily production is more than 100mCi (millicurie), which can be supplied to about 20 large domestic hospitals and research institutes.
The research team plans to transfer the technology to Futurechem, a company specialising in the development of new radiopharmaceuticals. Lee Nam-ho, head of the Advanced Radiation Research Centre at Kaeri, said, "Zirconium-89 is a drug with great global market potential, and export to China is being pursued."
Photo: Device for zirconium-89 oxalate and chloride production (Photo credit: Kaeri)