14 Nov 2014

CLS announces first shipment of medical isotopes

SASKATOON – Scientists at the Canadian Light Source have announced the first shipment of medical isotopes produced in its dedicated linear accelerator.

The Medical Isotope Project (MIP) facility at the CLS is the first of its kind in the world, relying on powerful X-rays to produce the isotopes, unlike traditional nuclear reactor-based methods. The project was funded by Natural Resources Canada’s Isotope Technology Acceleration Program (ITAP), and the Government of Saskatchewan, in partnership with the Prairie Isotope Production Enterprise (PIPE), a not-for-profit corporation based in Manitoba, whose goal is to develop a reliable supply of isotopes for Canadian patients.

“We are excited to be producing medical isotopes at this critical time in history,” said CLS CEO Rob Lamb. “To be part of a project that will meet the health needs of so many Canadians, that is the most gratifying element.”

The MIP uses a particle accelerator to bombard a target made of enriched molybdenum-100 metal (Mo-100) with high-energy X-rays. The X-rays knock a neutron out of the nuclei of some of the Mo-100 atoms in the target, converting them to the isotope Mo-99. The Mo-99 decays into technetium-99m (Tc-99m), which is used for tagging radiopharmaceuticals for medical diagnostic tests. After the Mo-99 has decayed, the remaining Mo-100 in the solution is recovered and recycled into additional targets.  

“Today’s achievement is welcome news for Canadian families and our communities,” said Kelly Block, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honorable Greg Rickford, Minister of Natural Resources. “Our investments in new technologies are supporting new milestones contributing to reliable global supplies of medical isotopes.”

Tc-99m is by far the most used medical isotope in Canada with about 5,000 medical scans daily. Two or three accelerator systems like the MIP facility could produce enough medical isotopes to supply all of Canada.

“We are committed to building a strong Saskatchewan by supporting world leading innovative research and development programs such as the medical isotopes project,” Minister Responsible for Innovation Jeremy Harrison said. “Thanks to the dedicated scientists at CLS who have developed this world leading technology, now thousands of patients from across Canada and around the world will benefit from isotopes tests for serious medical issues.”

The MIP will continue to test the production of the isotopes until approval from Health Canada is obtained, at which time the CLS and PIPE will become leading suppliers of isotopes to healthcare facilities across Western Canada and Northwest Ontario, by 2016.

CLS, PIPE, and their partners, will continue to work together to expand this unique and first-in-the-world technology, to ensure sustainable secure access to medical isotopes for all Canadians. In addition, through commercialization and spin off opportunities, the partners plan to export this made-in-Canada technology around the world, creating new Canadian businesses and jobs. 

Mark de Jong, Canadian Light Source Director of Accelerators and Medical Isotope Project leader, holds a cartridge filled with molybdenum disks capable of producing enough isotope material for 1,000 medical scans.  

This photo and others to accompany the story are available with a Creative Commons license in the CLS image gallery.
For video footage of our medical isotope project, visit ourYouTube channel.

About the CLS:

The Canadian Light Source is Canada’s national centre for synchrotron research and a global centre of excellence in synchrotron science and its applications. Located on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon, the CLS has hosted over 2,000 researchers from academic institutions, government, and industry from 10 provinces and 2 territories; delivered over 32,000 experimental shifts; received over 8,300 user visits; and provided a scientific service critical in over 1,000 scientific publications, since beginning operations in 2005.

CLS operations are funded by Canada Foundation for Innovation, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Western Economic Diversification Canada, National Research Council of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Government of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan.

Synchrotrons work by accelerating electrons in a tube to nearly the speed of light using powerful magnets and radio frequency waves. By manipulating the electrons, scientists can select different forms of very bright light using a spectrum of X-ray, infrared, and ultraviolet light to conduct experiments.

Synchrotrons are used to probe the structure of matter and analyze a host of physical, chemical, geological and biological processes. Information obtained by scientists can be used to help design new drugs, examine the structure of surfaces in order to develop more effective motor oils, build more powerful computer chips, develop new materials for safer medical implants, and help clean up mining wastes, to name a few applications.

For more information visit the CLS website.

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