By AUSTIN MONTGOMERY
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan measure to include $20 million to support domestic production of a commonly used medical isotope in combating cancer and heart disease was approved in the U.S. Senate last week.
The amendment to the 2019 Energy and Water Development Appropriation Bill was led by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, and will support companies including NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes in Beloit and SHINE Medical Technologies in Janesville to establish domestic production of molybdenum-99 (mo-99) in the United States, an isotope used in 50,000 medical tests daily to detect and treat cancer and heart disease. Although the U.S. accounts for the majority of mo-99’s use around the world, it is not produced in the United States and is imported from foreign nuclear research reactors and production facilities.
Currently the main supply comes from an aging facility in the Netherlands.
“Medical isotopes are critical to American health care, and our Wisconsin entrepreneurs are working to deploy a Made in America source of this much-needed diagnostic tool for patients and families,” Baldwin said. “This amendment gets our domestic production back on track to ensure health care providers can source this critical medical isotope domestically and reduce our reliance on foreign sources. I am proud to continue advocating for our Made in Wisconsin companies that create and innovate to improve public health and save lives.”
SHINE and NorthStar are competitors at varying stages of progress, with both companies netting millions in federal grants to boost research and development. SHINE looks to build a production facility in Janesville and the City of Janesville committed over $10 million in tax breaks for its efforts. NorthStar in Beloit has received $50 million in research and development funding and broke ground on a new production facility earlier this year.
NorthStar announced Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval for its company to sell mo-99 using a government reactor in Missouri.
“For security in the health care system and certainty in patient access to essential medical tests—which are often needed in urgent situations—we need a domestic supply of these isotopes,” Baldwin said.
According to Priscilla Harlan, a representative for NorthStar, the company supports the approved appropriations bill.
“With the recent FDA approval of our RadioGenix System, NorthStar is extremely proud to pioneer domestic production of Mo-99 that is independent of uranium-based product to reduce the U.S. healthcare system’s reliance on fragile foreign supply of Mo-99,” Harlan said. “NorthStar is committed to protecting national security and the environment while providing innovative products for the nuclear medicine community and the patients it serves.”