Coquí Pharma completes design of medical isotope facility

09 April 2015

Coquí RadioPharmaceuticals Corp has completed the schematic design of its $330 million medical isotope production facility to be built in Alachua, Florida. Coquí Pharma will soon enter the detailed design phase as it readies to submit its construction licence application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the end of 2015.

Coqui Pharma isotope plant - 460
How the new medical isotope production facility will look (Image: Coquí Pharma)

The Puerto Rican company, based in Coral Gables, aims to become the first US commercial supplier of the lifesaving radioisotope Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), which is used in 20 million procedures each year in the USA.

Mo-99 is used in medical equipment to generate Technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the most widely used isotope in nuclear medicine. Mo-99 has a half-life of only 66 hours, meaning that supplies need to be constantly replenished.

Canada's National Research Universal reactor, built at Chalk River in 1957, produces 40% of world supply of Mo-99. It is due to be shut down in March 2018.

The closure of that facility presents a major challenge for the industry, Coquí Pharma said, because "there will be no producer from which to purchase Tc-99m in the Western Hemisphere". Existing international production sources of Mo-99 "tend to be older and often unreliable, potentially delaying life-saving diagnostics", it added.

Along with Argentinian nuclear engineering firm INVAP, Coquí Pharma also contracted multi-disciplinary architectural, engineering and environmental firm Gresham, Smith and Partners.

In February, a Canadian-US partnership was announced to create a "new, reliable supply" of medical isotopes for use worldwide. Canada's Nordion and its US parent company Sterigenics International signed partnership agreements with the USA's General Atomics (GA) and the University of Missouri Research Reactor Center (MURR). Through the agreements, sterilization specialist Sterigenics and radioisotope supplier Nordion will be supplied with Mo-99 produced in MURR's research reactor using targets incorporating low-enriched uranium supplied by GA.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News