Two local companies get funding for medical isotope work

2011-06-07T16:35:00Z 2012-05-23T17:32:31Z Two local companies get funding for medical isotope workJUDY NEWMAN | | 608-252-6156

Two competing local companies, both working to produce a scarce radioactive isotope used in heart stress tests and cancer scans, have each brought in money from investors.

And at least one is getting wooed by three communities to house the manufacturing plant it plans to build.

SHINE Medical Technologies, Middleton, said Tuesday it is getting $11 million from investors led by Knox, a Las Vegas venture capital fund set up by UW-Madison alumnus Frederick Mancheski.

NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes, Madison, received $6 million from Hendricks Holdings, Beloit, in April.

Both companies want to make molybdenum-99. When molybdenum-99 decays, it produces technetium-99m, a substance used in nuclear imaging procedures performed on tens of thousands of patients every day to diagnose heart disease and cancer and to study brain and kidney function.

Two aging nuclear reactors in Canada and the Netherlands supply most of the technetium-99m used in the U.S.; repairs that closed the Canadian reactor in 2009 and 2010 resulted in a worldwide shortage.

SHINE, or Subcritical Hybrid Intense Neutron Emitter, will use its funds for a test project of its technology, probably at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico, SHINE chief executive officer Greg Piefer said. “We have a very ambitious plan. This $11 million will keep us on schedule,” he said.

SHINE, spun off in 2010 from Phoenix Nuclear Labs, Middleton, has technology developed in-house and at the UW-Madison using low-enriched uranium. It’s a “greener and much more efficient” system than the current process that uses highly enriched uranium, Piefer said. “The difference is: you can’t make a nuclear bomb out of low-enriched uranium,” he said.

SHINE hopes to demonstrate its production capability by the end of 2012, then, with federal approval, build a plant and open it by the end of 2014, Piefer said. Total project cost: $80 million, with up to $25 million from the federal government. The company’s collaborators include the UW-Madison and the private, nonprofit Morgridge Institute for Research.

Janesville already is offering SHINE a plot of land across from the airport for a factory that could employ 120, Piefer said. He said Stevens Point and Chippewa Falls also are “aggressively” in pursuit.

NorthStar Medical has two technologies licensed from PG Research Foundation in northern Illinois and neither uses uranium. One is expected to begin production late this year at the University of Missouri Groundwork Reactor. “We’re well on track to achieving that,” senior vice president Glenn Isensee said.

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