The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) announced its Nuclear Medicine (ANM) facility had received a licence from regulators, allowing it to begin supplying nuclear medicine to Australian patients.
The plant is now able to manufacture molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), the decay product of technetium-99m (Tc-99m), which is used in nuclear medicine procedures worldwide to diagnose various heart, lung and musculoskeletal conditions, as well as cancer.
Enabled through a $168 million investment from the government, the project could soon be capable of delivering a quarter of global needs for the most commonly used nuclear medicine.
In addition, the plant will produce Mo-99 using proliferation-proof low enriched uranium in an effort to contribute to global non- proliferation and nuclear security goals.
“This is the most advanced and safest manufacturing facility for nuclear medicine on the planet today,” ANSTO CEO Dr. Adi Paterson, said in a statement. “This is a highly sophisticated manufacturing facility that will see the Shire contributing strongly to health outcomes for patients across Australia - the wait has been worth it.”
The organization currently produces around 10,000 patient doses of nuclear medicines per week distributed to more than 250 hospitals and medical practices across Australia.
Paterson said the creation of the plant would help ensure supply of vital nuclear medicine for Australians far into the future, as well as providing an opportunity for the country to be a global leader in the industry.
There are currently approximately 350 credentialed specialists in nuclear medicine in Australia who deliver nuclear medicine services in approximately 200 sites across the country, according to the Australasian Association of Nuclear Medicine Specialists.
“Nothing like this highly-specialised facility has ever been delivered in Australia before, and I thank everyone who has worked to make this a reality over a significant construction and licencing period,” Paterson continued.
The Government of New South Wales (NSW) announced in May that it would invest AU$12.5 million to aid the expansion of the Innovation Precinct at the Lucas Heights campus of ANSTO.
The expansion plans will include a cutting-edge nuclear medicine cluster; nuclear medicine broadly deals with the use of radioactive substances in research, diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
This includes many types of cancers, heart disease, gastrointestinal, endocrine, neurological disorders and other abnormalities within the body.
The purpose of the nuclear medicine cluster will be to enable the sharing of knowledge among scientists, with the larger goal of advancing development of diagnostics and therapies for treating cancer and other diseases.
“ANSTO is one of the biggest employers in the region, so there are local benefits, but this new nuclear medicine facility will take the health benefits global,” said Sutherland Shire Mayor Carmelo Pesce in a statement welcoming the new facility.