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(Beloit, WI) Jim Leute, Gazette

It's been a busy summer for NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes, one of two companies that plan to produce medical isotopes in Rock County.

NorthStar announced Thursday that it signed a letter of intent with GE Healthcare as a distributor of molybdenum-99, a medical isotope primarily used for detecting heart disease and determining stages of cancer progression.

NorthStar broke ground in July for a 50,000-square-foot facility on Gateway Boulevard in Beloit that will house the company's headquarters and activities related to the production of the Mo-99.

NorthStar is one of three U.S. companies supported by the National Nuclear Security Administration as it pushes for a more reliable and diverse supply of Mo-99.

SHINE Medical Technologies is another, and it also has signed a supplier agreement with GE. It plans to build and open an isotope production plant in Janesville by 2017.

Under the purchase agreement, NorthStar will supply GE Mo-99 for compounding and distribution once its non-uranium-based production technology and proprietary isotope separation system have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are commercially available.

In June, NorthStar signed a letter of intent with Triad Isotopes, the second-largest radiopharmacy chain in the United States.

Triad also will market the Mo-99 that NorthStar plans to produce.

Nearly all Mo-99 is now produced using highly enriched uranium at aging facilities outside the United States.

That has led to product shortages and created safety and national security concerns.

The U.S. Department of Energy is working with commercial entities such as NorthStar and SHINE to accelerate the establishment of domestic sources of Mo-99 made without highly enriched uranium.

George Messina, NorthStar's president and chief executive officer, said the partnership with GE would help ensure that health care professionals have reliable access to the isotope they need to give their patients accurate diagnoses and conduct important research.

“Because the Mo-99 parent radioisotope will be produced without the use of highly enriched uranium, we will be helping the United States achieve vital national security and safety goals,” he said.

NorthStar's Beloit project is the first phase of development on the 32-acre site.

It will support the company's work at the University of Missouri Research Reactor in Columbia, Missouri, where NorthStar is developing a neutron capture process to generate Mo-99.

Future phases could expand the buildings to a total of 200,000 square feet in the next six to eight years, Messina said.

A separate facility would house linear accelerators for use in another Mo-99-generation process that NorthStar is developing, he said.

Initially, 20 employees will work in the new facility.

Employment could grow to 165 by 2018, Messina said.

NorthStar is seeking regulatory approval from Wisconsin and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

SHINE is seeking permits from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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