Northwest Medical Isotopes Gains NRC Approval

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

ONAMI portfolio company Northwest Medical Isotopes took a big step forward this week when it won approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build a processing plant for radioactive medical isotopes.

Northwest Medical Isotopes Gains NRC Approval

A small Corvallis company took a big step forward this week when it won approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build a processing plant for radioactive medical isotopes.

“We’ve passed a major milestone that we’ve been anticipating for a couple of years now,” CEO Nick Fowler said.

Fowler said the company hopes to break ground within the next four months and have the plant up and running 18 to 24 months after that. The 60,000-square-foot facility will employ about 80 people.

The company, founded in 2010 to commercialize a new technology developed at Oregon State University, aims to become a major U.S. supplier of molybdenum-99, a radioactive isotope used in cardiac stress tests, bone scans and other medical procedures.

“There has been no domestic production of molybdenum-99 in the United States since the 1960s, and then it was for research,” Fowler said. “Having a domestic supply is and has been our primary mission.”

Historically the material has been produced in large research reactors by bombarding a target containing uranium-235 with neutrons, then using a chemical process to separate the molybdenum from other isotopes created in the process. OSU’s breakthrough involves an improved target design and more efficient use of available neutrons, enabling the use of small research reactors like those found on some U.S. college campuses to produce the material.

Corvallis-based Samaritan Health Services and Dignity Health, a San Francisco-based health system with medical facilities in 22 states, are among the venture’s financial backers, along with Cheever Capital Management of Albany.

For now the company’s focus is on completing its new processing facility and establishing efficient production and distribution of molybdenum-99, Fowler said, but eventually the company intends to expand its product line to include additional isotopes as well.