NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes has received approval to start routine production of molybdenum-99 at the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR) in Columbia, Missouri.

The decision, by the MURR internal project review committee, will let NorthStar set up a weekly production schedule and increase the output of the radioisotope, the company said.

Molybdenum-99 decays into technetium-99m, widely used for medical diagnostic imaging. Up to now, nearly all of the substance has been made using weapons-grade highly enriched uranium at aging reactors outside the U.S. NorthStar's process does not use highly enriched uranium.

NorthStar, formerly of Madison, has moved its headquarters to Beloit where it is building a plant to manufacture molybdenum-99. It still needs final approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for full-scale production. 

It is one of two local companies working on similar projects.  SHINE Medical Technologies, Monona, is planning to build a plant in Janesville to make the isotope using its own technology.

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Judy Newman is a business reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.