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In 2009, the Expert Review Panel on Medical Isotope Production, established by the Harper Government, issued a report which recommended that steps be taken to diversify the supply chain and develop alternative sources of isotope supply. The Panel highlighted the potential of cyclotron and linear accelerator technologies.
The Harper Government responded by announcing in Economic Action Plan 2010 an investment of $35 million to diversify sources of the key isotope technetium-99m (Tc-99m). Tc-99m is the most widely used isotope for medical imaging and accounts for approximately 80 percent of nuclear medicine diagnostic procedures.
The Non-reactor-based Isotope Supply Contribution Program (NISP) provided funding over two years to four multi-partner projects to support the research, development and demonstration of cyclotron and linear accelerator technologies for the production of Tc-99m. These projects have shown promising results, including small-scale demonstration of Tc-99m production, but more work is required to bring the technologies to commercial-scale production, including the steps to meet regulatory requirements.
To further advance the development of these alternatives to existing isotope production technologies and help secure the supply of medical isotopes for Canadians, Budget 2012 provided an additional $25 million over four years to Natural Resources Canada for the Isotope Technology Acceleration Program (ITAP) to build on the developments made through NISP.
Following a rigorous competitive process, ITAP is investing in the work to optimize the processes and build the evidence needed for health regulatory approvals, as well as to attract private sector interest and bring these technologies to market. The funding will support collaboration among academic, private and public sector partners to further advance non–reactor-based technologies, specifically linear accelerators and cyclotrons, for securing the supply of Tc-99m for Canadians in the medium to long term.
This investment will also allow Canada to remain a leader in medical isotopes and grow business opportunities for domestic and international markets, while supporting high-quality jobs at home and meeting clear health public policy needs.
Furthermore, these investments are aligned with Canada’s commitment to nuclear security and non-proliferation by moving toward eliminating the need for highly enriched uranium, a weapons grade nuclear material, in the production of medical isotopes.
The Government is providing funding to three projects through ITAP. Information about these projects can be found on the websites of the proponents:
- Universityof Alberta ($7 million – cyclotron) in Edmonton,
- TRIUMF ($7 million – cyclotron) in British Columbia, and
- Prairie Isotope Production Enterprise ($7.46 million – linear accelerator) in Manitoba.
The funding announced today totals $21.45 million. The remaining $3.55 million covers related support costs incurred by the government to prepare, establish, manage and oversee a highly technical program.
Office of Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources
Natural Resources Canada
NRCan’s news releases and backgrounders are available at www.dev.nrcan.gc.ca/media.
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