NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes has been issued two cooperative funding agreements worth $37 million by federal officials to boost production of a material widely used in medical imaging.
The material — known as molybdenum-99 or Mo-99 — is used to create Technetium-99m. It is used in millions of diagnostic tests each year. NorthStar produces the Mo-99 as well as the systems used for extracting the Tc-99m.
“We are working aggressively to ensure sustainable domestic Mo-99 supply through dual production and processing hubs for additional capacity and scheduling flexibility,” said Stephen Merrick, president and CEO of the Beloit-based company.
The U.S. Department of Defense’s National Nuclear Security Administration recently announced the funding in a release. Under the agreements, NorthStar will get $16.3 million to expand its “neutron capture technology” used in the production process, and $20.7 million for a second production effort.
NorthStar will have to provide matching funds for both of the agreements, a release shows.
One of NorthStar’s selling points is that it doesn’t need to use highly enriched uranium to produce the Mo-99, unlike the foreign production sources that historically provided Mo-99 to medical facilities in the United States. Highly enriched uranium can be used to create nuclear weapons.
NorthStar began producing Mo-99 domestically in 2018 and uses a method that involves changing the stable isotope molybdenum-98 into Mo-99. The company has received a total of over $100 million in cooperative agreement funds by the NNSA, a release shows.
“By combining NNSA’s expertise in nuclear nonproliferation with innovative U.S. manufacturing, Americans will benefit from the health applications of radioisotopes while keeping nuclear risks low and setting a global example,” said NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby.