26 Jun NorthStar finds cancer-fighting use for nuclear fuel
Janesville, Wis. – Fighting cancer and disposing of excess nuclear fuel may seem like disparate goals at first glance. However, a small company in Janesville has obtained the rights to a technology that promises to tackle both problems simultaneously.
NorthStar Nuclear Medicine, Inc., an early-stage developer of radiopharmaceuticals, will develop an agent for cancer research and treatment by processing small amounts of unused nuclear fuel left over from a discontinued breeder reactor research program.
NSN, a producer and developer of diagnostic and therapeutic radioisotopes, recently acquired the rights to a new technology developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory.
Glen Isensee, senior vice president and chief technology officer for Northstar Nuclear, said he and his colleagues recognized and linked the demand for medical research isotopes with the supply offered by the DOE.
“If there’s a good market, why not do something about it?” Isensee asked.
Going to the MATT
The technology, Medical Actinium for Therapeutic Treatment (MATT), is used to produce actinium-225, a medical isotope used in alpha-immunotherapy treatments. These treatments utilize an alpha particle-emitting radionuclide carried by targeting agents such as monoclonal antibodies. The targeting agent attaches to cancer cells and the radioisotope kills them, ideally minimizing collateral damage to normal cells.
The agreement gives NorthStar the exclusive right to use MATT for the life of the patents in exchange for fees and annual royalty payments to INL. Terry Todd, research department manager for INL, anticipates the partnership will know more about the design, cost, and timeline for developing the isotope on a larger scale after nine months of studies.
“We’re quite optimistic about this working,” Todd said. “We’re really excited to be partnered with NorthStar to get this moving forward.”
NorthStar Nuclear, a subsidiary of NorthStar Growth Partners, LLC, also located in Janesville, will work with tens-of-grams of fuel to demonstrate the technology on small scale and verify the chemistry of the separation processes. These studies will help develop designs for a pilot plant capable of processing 500 to 1,000 pounds of fuel.
This small plant will produce actinium for testing and clinical trials within the medical community, but plans to construct larger facilities await FDA approval.
This strategy will sidestep an expensive alternative for disposing of the unused fuel, called “down-blending,” which would involve mixing the 13 tons of uranium-233 with a very large amount of natural uranium.
“We would rather see it used for [the study] as opposed to being diluted down,” Todd said.
• NorthStar signs exclusive agreement with Illinois foundation