Just last year, thousands of patients worldwide had diagnostic imaging tests delayed or cancelled due to a worldwide shortage of a key compound to create the image, molybdenum 99, also known as Moly 99 or Mo-99. Currently, the primary suppliers of this key compound are aging nuclear reactors outside the United States. In 2010, two of the world’s five Moly-99-producing reactors experienced production problems, shutting off much of the world’s supply for weeks.
Advanced Medical Isotope Corporation (OTCBB: ADMD), AMIC, is one company stepping up to create this critical compound domestically. Unlike suppliers just a few years ago, the company plans on manufacturing the isotope without using highly enriched uranium, a substance that could be used by terrorists to create horrific weapons.
The issue is so grave, Congress is involved. In May, senators Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, and Lisa Murkowski, D-Alaska, introduced a bill to encourage domestic production of Moly 99 without the use of highly enriched uranium. A former bill died in Congress last year.
Mo- 99 is used to create the short-lived tracer technetium-99, critical to perform noninvasive medical scans diagnosing tumors, cancer, heart disease and more. An estimated 12 million to 18 million procedures using Moly 99 are performed in the United States every year. The number of scans are expected to continue to increase worldwide, as the American population ages and as nations such as China develop and demand better-quality medical care.
Meanwhile, the US supply of Mo- 99 largely comes from Canada and Europe. The substance has a half-life of just 66 hours, preventing American medical providers from stockpiling the material. Complicating production, its manufacture once required using highly enriched uranium, a heavily-monitored and restricted material due to its potential to create weapons. Now, AMIC is expecting to create Mo- 99 without highly enriched uranium in a unique process.
In fact, AMIC is able to produce Mo- 99 using a rhodotron that fits in a laboratory, “the footprint of the lab is considerably smaller than that of a nuclear reactor,” said Jim Katzaroff, company CEO and Chairman. Though small, the lab operates under strict state and federal guidelines.
These small, cost-efficient labs allow the business to manufacture Mo- 99 and other short-lived medical isotopes in places never-before financially feasible. AMIC also plans to economically sell materials to hospitals in smaller, more isolated cities, “the Boise’s and Missoula’s of the world, are underserved and we aim to correct that issue,” said Katzaroff.
Among the isotopes that could be manufactured is F-18 FDG, used in PET imaging. F-18 FDG production is especially critical as it has a half life of only 110 minutes. Hospitals that wish to use some types of PET imagers, a key part of complex heart and cancer diagnosis, must have reliable access to this perishable resource.