Unreliable supply of nuclear imaging isotope spurs plans of US production

American patients consume nearly half of the world’s supply of Molybdenum-99 (moly-99), a radioisotope that is crucial to most nuclear medicine imaging procedures. Yet there are only six government-owned nuclear research reactors that produce moly-99 and none in North America, prompting concerns about the supply chain of a product that has a shelf life of only a few days due to rapid decay.

The New York Times detailed the logistical challenge of keeping U.S. hospitals stocked with the radioactive isotope, which can help identify blockages in blood vessels or where cancerous tumors reside in bones.

But domestic help may be coming. Aided by federal grants, two companies are considering producing moly-99 in Wisconsin. One, called Shine, has promised to get up and running by 2020, although its previous deadline of 2015 has already passed.

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