The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has transferred 206 acres of land in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to Coqui Radio Pharmaceuticals so the company can build a facility that domestically produces Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), the most widely used isotope for nuclear imaging procedures.
Despite its ubiquity—18 million medical procedures in the U.S. use the isotope annually, according to Coqui—Mo-99 is currently only produced at six facilities worldwide and none in North America. That can leave the supply chain vulnerable to disruptions and shortages, such as the one experienced in November when multiple reactors were shut down simultaneously.
The DOE has made domestic production of Mo-99 a priority; in February, the department’s National Nuclear Security Administration offered up to $15 million in funding to four U.S. companies to aid production efforts.
The transfer of land to Coqui Radio Pharmaceuticals comes with additional funding and is in a strategic location near research collaborators, according to Coqui’s announcement. The area is adjacent to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex, which were described as “world-class research assets” by Coqui founder and CEO Carmen I. Bigles.
“This research partnership is critical and supports our efforts to obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Food and Drug Administration approvals for the facility,” Bigles said in the press release. “The sooner we can begin producing U.S.-made Mo-99, the sooner we can minimize our dependency on foreign imports to meet critical U.S. medical needs.”
Coqui’s facility is expected to be fully operational in 2025, according to the release.