GE Healthcare, Shine advance tech to create imaging radioisotope without weapons-grade uranium

Technetium-99m (Tc‑99m) is used in more than 40 million medical imaging procedures each year.--Courtesy of GE Healthcare

The race is on to develop U.S. sources for a material necessary to create the most widely used radioisotope in medical diagnostic imaging. Now GE Healthcare ($GE) and startup Shine Technologies have disclosed that they have successfully used GE's existing tech to create the common medical radioisotope technetium-99m (Tc‑99m) from molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) produced by Shine.

The Shine technique was developed as an alternative that uses highly enriched but not weapons-grade uranium to produce Mo-99 that is then transformed via the GE tech into Tc-99m for use in diagnostic imaging.

Next, the FDA must approve the use of the Shine-produced Mo-99 that is altered via the GE Drytec Technetium Tc-99m Generator. Ultimately, Mo-99 production is expected to start in 2019 and to be sufficient to supply enough Tc-99m for two-thirds of the U.S. patient population. GE Healthcare and Shine partnered in a Mo-99 supply deal last year.

"Our customers--healthcare providers and imaging specialists--rely on a secure supply of molybdenum-99 to ensure that patients can get the diagnostic imaging scans they need," Jan Makela, general manager of Core Imaging at GE Healthcare Life Sciences, said in a statement. "We are working hard to make this key isotope readily-available and cost-effective for customers. Successfully using the Shine material for our Drytec Tc-99m generator is a promising step in making that goal a reality."

Shine and another startup, NorthStar, are both backed by the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration to enable U.S.-based production of Mo-99. For its part, late last year Shine also nabbed a massive commitment of up to $125 million in debt from life sciences investor Deerfield Management.

"We have been confident from the beginning that molybdenum-99 produced by our process would be compatible with existing Tc-99m generators, and now we've proved it," said Shine CEO Greg Piefer. "This demonstration validates that the cleaner, safer technical approach we've been pursuing can be fully integrated into the existing supply chain."

- here is the announcement