The United States faces a grave threat to its supply of life-saving medical radioisotopes.
We want to fix that.
On April 2010, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland erupted, grounding and disrupting transatlantic air travel for a week. Coupled with unexpected maintenance outages in several of the world’s aging reactors that produce Molybdenum-99, a medical radioisotope, the United States faced shortages of up to 50,000 doses of the radiopharmaceutical each day. Today, uncertainties continue to exist in the supply chain reliability in the United States, forcing doctors to ration or go without.
Twenty percent of the world's Mo-99 was produced at the Chalk River Laboratory in Canada, the oldest operating reactor in the world at 61 years old. Being the only substantial producer in the Western Hemisphere, Canadian authorities extended the reactor's license by two years to allow other reactors around the world to prepare for its permanent closure in March 2018.
The other top producers of Mo-99 around the world are all reactors over 40 years old. As these reactors continue to age, maintenance outages will become more frequent, expensive, and unpredictable. Additionally, without a reactor in the western hemisphere, material costs will rise as more material must be produced if shipments must cross the Atlantic. Remember, radiopharmaceuticals are radioactive, meaning that the longer it takes to go from reactor to bloodstream, the more of the material decays away!
For several decades, the Federal Government has thrown hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars at studying and prototyping “alternative” manufacturing methods, such as particle accelerators, for use in creating a domestic supply in lieu of a nuclear reactor. Using accelerators to produce medical radioisotopes, however, is inefficient, expensive to operate, and produces much less pure Mo-99, making it more expensive to purify.
The good news is that it is not too late to fix the problem, but the time to act is now.
Read "The Mo-99 Story" here.
Atomic Alchemy aims to create a modular, scale-able, vertically integrated facility to optimize the production and manufacturing of radioisotopes. Instead of prototyping “alternative” technologies, we will stabilize and expand the supply of these life-serving radioisotopes by using off-the-shelf, existing, and proven technologies.