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Production of highly pure radionuclides to be used as radiopharmaceutical precursors

Country of Origin: Italy
Reference Number: TOIT20171106002
Publication Date: 6 November 2017

Summary

An Italian research group has developed a new technology for the production of very high quality radionuclides as radiopharmaceutical precursors. The isobaric beams generated by a low-energy commercially available cyclotron are applied for the production of carrier-free radionuclides. Radiopharmaceutical industries and hospitals are sought for developing new radiopharmaceuticals or effectively improving the production of the conventional radionuclides through technical or licensing agreements.

Description

Radionuclides for radiopharmaceutical preparation are currently produced in cyclotrons, generators or nuclear reactors. However, none of these modalities is free from serious shortcomings, such as: high costs of targets, co-production of undesired radionuclides contaminating the final product, laborious and expensive separation methods and formation of large quantities of radioactive wastes.
The ISOL technique (IsoTope Separation On-Line) is nowadays widely recognized as a major pathway for the production of high intensity and high quality radioactive ion beams for nuclear physics studies. The fact that it allows to produce exotic nuclei with: i) high efficiency, ii) high rate and iii) great selectivity makes it ideally suitable for production of high-specific activity beta emitters, as those required for the preparation of modern theranostic molecular radiopharmaceuticals (MRs).
According to the newly proposed method with the aforementioned unique features it will be possible to produce radionuclides with specific activities superior to those provided in standard facilities and free from radionuclide and chemical impurities.
Through a primary accelerator (for istance a cyclotron), a low energy proton beam irradiates a target to generate neutral radioactive atoms which are ionized and extracted by acceleration. After being focused, the beam undergoes mass separation to generate an isobaric beam of radionuclides. The beam is subjected to a second focusing and it is sent for a predetermined time on a deposition target. The irradiated deposition target is eventually chemically treated to yield “carrier-free” radionuclides. The Italian research group is looking for radiopharmaceutical industries and hospitals for testing and developing new radiopharmaceuticals or effectively improving the production of the conventional radionuclides through technical or licensing agreements.

Advantages and Innovations

Mass separation is a decisive allowing the elimination of all possible nuclide impurities of different mass; the only remaining contaminants are non-isotopic isobars amenable to chemical separations. This concept radically singles out the this method from reactor-based ones, whereby the main contaminants are isotopic nuclide impurities impossible to eliminate by chemical means. The quality of radionuclides made available for preparation of radiopharmaceuticals will be extremely high. Specifically, radionuclides in high specific activities and without nuclide contamination will be retrieved, highlighting the strength of the new method. According to the innovative concept, accelerated ions will be applied for the production of radionuclides, paving the way to a radically new technology in respect to traditional accelerator and reactor-based techniques. This methodology is attractive for eventual industrial end-users, because unlike other ISOL facilities requiring extremely expensive accelerators as starting points, it uses cyclotrons with orders of magnitude lower costs of production and maintenance. Moreover, target optimization will allow production of more radionuclides due to the high power it can sustain, becoming competitive to nuclear reactors in terms of production rates. The project outcomes will foster academic biomedical research by providing new tools for the preparation of high quality radiopharmaceuticals. Eventually, better quality radiopharmaceuticals covering more clinical indications will be made available to clinicians and patients with clear socio-economic benefits.
Last but not least, this innovative method to produce the radionuclides of interest is independent from nuclear reactors. Although the target may still contain uranium, the quantities are in the order of grams, whereas in nuclear reactor fuel its quantities often reach the order of tons, significantly affecting waste management logistics and with high cost

Stage Of Development

Under development/lab tested

Stage Of Development Comment

Tests are being carried out (succesfully) using stable beams demonstrating the capability of the experimental apparatuses to produce, accelerate and collect isobaric beams.

Requested partner

Private companies or research centers on radiopharmaceutical science or hospitals for testing and  developing new radiopharmaceuticals or effectively improving the production of the conventional radionuclides through technical or licensing agreements.

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