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Southwestern Ontario Isotope Coalition (SOIC)

Updated: Feb 27



Introduction

The Southwestern Ontario region marked a pivotal moment in healthcare innovation with the official launch of the Southwestern Ontario Isotope Coalition (SOIC), October 16th, hosted by BWXT Medical in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada.


This initiative, born from collaborative efforts, is set to enhance the area's medical isotope production capabilities, with reverberations expected on a global scale.



About the Southwestern Ontario Isotope Coalition (SOIC)

Discussed in June 2023 and officially launched Oct 16, the SOIC, a collaborative with the City of Owen Sound, the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council (CNIC), The Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII) and private industry, aims to consolidate the region's capabilities to enhance the production, development, and utilization of medical isotopes in the global battle against cancer.


SOIC was established to harness the collective strengths of the Southwestern Ontario region in supporting Canada's national objectives and vision concerning medical isotopes. Recognizing the critical role of these isotopes in modern medicine and the global market, the coalition seeks to create a robust platform for both local and national opportunities in the isotope industry.


Goals and Objectives

  • Enhancing Medical Isotope Production and Use: One of the primary goals is to increase the production and application of medical isotopes, contributing significantly to global healthcare, particularly in cancer treatment.

  • Fostering Collaborative Partnerships: SOIC plans to bring together various regional partners to develop a strategic approach, maximizing the medical isotope industry's potential. This collaboration extends to education, research, healthcare sectors and the private sector.

  • Economic and Community Development: By tapping into the medical isotope industry, SOIC anticipates boosting the local economy, creating job opportunities, and positioning the region as a key player in the global market.

Key Takeaways from the Launch

  • The event underscored the Grey Bruce’s unique position as a burgeoning center of excellence for isotopes, backed by institutions like Bruce Power, Georgian College, and the regional hospital.

  • There was a consensus on the immense opportunity presented by the isotope industry, with calls for a unified, strategic approach to leverage this potential fully.

  • The coalition's next steps involve intensive strategic planning with regional partners, focusing on tapping into the medical isotope industry's vast opportunities.

Notable Quotes

  • Mayor of Owen Sound, Ian Boddy highlighted the unique opportunity to contribute globally by producing life-saving medical isotopes locally, emphasizing the region's readiness for success.

  • CNIC Chair, James Scongack discussed the anticipated doubling of medical isotopes demand by 2030, viewing the coalition as a strategic response to this global trend.

  • COO of the Nuclear Innovation Institute, Jessica Linthorne emphasized the collaborative effort to understand and exploit the industry's potential, noting ongoing innovative work in technology, training, and research.

The initiative represents a concerted effort to advance medical science, improve global health outcomes, and drive economic growth, marking a new chapter in the Grey Bruce’s contribution to global healthcare innovation.


Local Grey Bruce Businesses and Organizations Leading the Way

The Grey Bruce region is home to several businesses and institutions at the forefront of this healthcare innovation.


 
 

Many local stakeholders are involved in the production and commercialization of isotopes now and more generally involved in advancing solutions in nuclear medicine. We witnessed this at the SOIC launch event yesterday in Owen Sound at BWXT.


The commitments and support from local organizations in energy, municipal government, education and healthcare underscores the area's market and competency readiness.


These local entities are not just participants but trailblazers, shaping the future of medical isotopes.

  • A.I. VALI represents cutting edge AI based technological solutions, potentially bridging groundbreaking tech and healthcare methodologies to enhance patient outcomes.

  • Brightshores Health System: formerly Grey Bruce Health Services, Brightshores involvement as a user of isotopes research and innovation office new research will stand as a direct beneficiary of advancements in isotope-based procedures or pioneering novel healthcare protocols.

  • BWXT Medical: The venue for the launch event, BWXT, signals its pivotal role, likely offering technological prowess, infrastructure, or production facets crucial to advancing nuclear medicine technology and isotope production.

  • Bruce Power: Their presence is a nod to the region's deep roots in nuclear technology, providing essential expertise for isotope production, driving advancements in nuclear medicine, and solidifying the region's global stance.

  • Georgian College: Integral for workforce cultivation, they are expected to roll out specialized programs, fostering a new wave of professionals in nuclear medicine, ensuring sustained innovation, and industry growth.

  • Nuclear Innovation Institute(NII): NII is an independent, not-for-profit organization that seeks to accelerate innovation in the nuclear industry, benefiting both the sector and broader society.

Additional key regional stakeholders include: City of Owen Sound, CNIC, Kinectrics, Promotion, Grey County and Stevcon.

Market Insights and Regional Potential

What is the market potential for Isotopes? The "Isotopes for Hope" report, from the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council (CNIC) projects a booming market for medical isotopes, with valuations potentially reaching $14 to $33 billion USD by 2031.


Key Highlights from Isotopes for Hope Report:

  • Canada has been a leader in the global supply of isotopes for decades, providing reliable access to important isotopes like Co-60, I-125, Y-90, Xe-133, Ir-192 and Mo-99.

  • Canada is also guiding innovation in emerging medical isotopes like Lu-177 and Ac-225 and Canadian companies are expanding production of next generation radiotherapeutic treatments.

  • Canada supports almost the complete medical isotope supply chain, from production to processing and delivery. Infrastructure includes research reactors, power reactors, cyclotrons and processing facilities.

  • Partnerships between Canadian facilities, producers, irradiators and the international community contribute to new production techniques, clinical trials and increased isotope supplies for patients.

  • The global nuclear medicine market reached $5.6B USD in 2020 and grew 7% to $6B USD in 2021. It is projected to reach $14-33B USD by 2031, with therapeutics representing 75% of the higher estimate.

 
 
  • Hundreds of radiotherapeutic products are in development, with many using Lu-177 or Ac-225, representing opportunities for Canada to help fill supply gaps for these isotopes.

  • Canada faces barriers like specialized infrastructure needs, logistical challenges of radioactive decay, requirements for domestic clinical trials, and attracting private sector investment that must be addressed to realize its isotope production potential.

Understanding Nuclear Medicine, Isotopes and Radiopharmaceuticals


We’re not experts in the field but here’s what we’ve learned so far at the event and doing some digging using ChatGPT.


Three key terms were discussed by presenters and panelists: Nuclear Medicine, Isotopes and Radiopharmaceuticals


Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine is a specialized area of medical science that uses small amounts of radioactive materials, known as medical isotopes, to diagnose and treat various diseases.


These procedures are among the best and most advanced imaging techniques available, helping specialists visualize the structure and function of an organ, tissue, bone, or system within the body.


The following are key applications, components and conditions in the use of medical isotopes.


Diagnostic Applications

  • Imaging: Nuclear medicine uniquely provides information about both structure and function, making it possible to identify medical conditions in their early stages. Techniques such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans and Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) scans use radiopharmaceuticals to create detailed images. These images help physicians detect abnormalities early in the progression of a disease, such as thyroid disorders, bone metastases, or coronary artery disease.

  • Molecular Imaging: This technique goes beyond studying structural changes. By observing molecular pathways, it provides unique insights into physiological and biochemical changes, aiding early diagnosis and disease prevention. It's particularly useful in identifying specific cellular markers in cancer cells, allowing for targeted therapy.

Therapeutic Applications

  • Targeted Radiation Therapy: Certain medical isotopes are used to treat conditions, particularly cancer, by delivering targeted radiation to the diseased cells and minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. Examples include radioimmunotherapy and peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT).

  • Non-Cancerous Conditions: Nuclear medicine also treats a range of non-cancerous diseases. For example, radioactive iodine (I-131) therapy is used to treat hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer.

Medical Isotopes

  • Role in Diagnosis: Diagnostic isotopes are integral to nuclear medicine imaging techniques. They emit gamma rays that can be detected by specialized equipment, creating precise images of internal structures.

  • Role in Treatment: Therapeutic isotopes play a critical role in the treatment of certain diseases, delivering targeted radiation that destroys diseased cells.

Radiopharmaceuticals

  • Composition: Radiopharmaceuticals consist of a radioactive isotope (radionuclide) bound to a specific molecule (a ligand or carrier) that targets certain areas of the body. The radiopharmaceutical is designed to localize within specific organs or cellular receptors, providing effective treatment and detailed images of bodily functions and conditions.

  • Usage: These compounds are used in very small amounts for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Their radiation provides valuable data, and their therapeutic properties can significantly impact patient care, especially in oncology.

Safety and Advancements

  • Patient Safety: Nuclear medicine has been used for diagnosis and treatment for over 50 years, with no adverse effects when used correctly. The amount of radiation in a typical nuclear imaging procedure is comparable to that received during a diagnostic x-ray.

  • Technological Advancements: Continuous advancements in technology and chemistry are broadening the scope of nuclear medicine. Innovations in detector technology, computer algorithms, and radiopharmaceutical development are paving the way for the emergence of new procedures and therapies, enhancing patient comfort, and reducing radiation exposure.

Nuclear medicine represents a versatile, effective, and safe modality within modern medicine. It offers unique insights into the human body, allowing for early diagnosis, targeted treatment, and improved patient outcomes. As research and technology continue to evolve, the potential applications and benefits of nuclear medicine are set to expand, reaffirming its essential role in comprehensive patient care.

Who Buys Medical Isotopes?

Companies that manufacture radiopharmaceuticals purchase medical isotopes. These isotopes are the active radioactive ingredients needed to create radiopharmaceuticals. Here's what we’ve learned, so far, on how the process works:

  • Sourcing Isotopes: Radiopharmaceutical companies acquire medical isotopes from facilities capable of producing them. These facilities are often nuclear reactors or particle accelerators (cyclotrons) that have the technology to create specific radioactive isotopes. Some of the isotopes are produced by irradiating target materials with neutrons or protons, leading to the production of specific isotopes.

  • Manufacturing Process: Once the companies acquire the medical isotopes, they incorporate them into pharmaceutical compounds. These compounds are designed to target specific areas within the body. For instance, they might combine a radioactive isotope with a molecule that's known to seek out cancer cells. This process requires a high level of precision and expertise to ensure the correct radioactive substance is used and that it's stable and safe to administer.

  • Regulatory Compliance: Due to the sensitive and potentially hazardous nature of radioactive materials, companies involved in the production of radiopharmaceuticals must adhere to strict safety and regulatory guidelines. These guidelines cover everything from the handling of radioactive materials to the safe production and transportation of the final product.

  • Distribution: After the radiopharmaceuticals are manufactured, they're distributed to medical facilities, research institutions, and sometimes directly to specific departments within hospitals. The distribution process is also tightly regulated to ensure safety and effectiveness, considering the often short half-lives of radioactive isotopes.

So, while radiopharmaceutical companies do not typically create the isotopes themselves, they purchase them from specialized producers and then use them to manufacture radiopharmaceuticals.


This entire process contributes to the broader medical supply chain, allowing healthcare providers to utilize these specialized substances for a range of diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

Do Hospitals Buy Isotopes or Buy Them in the Form of Radiopharmaceuticals?


Hospitals typically purchase radiopharmaceuticals rather than just the isotopes. Here's why:

  • Preparation and Safety: Radiopharmaceuticals are carefully prepared combinations of isotopes and other molecules that target specific organs, bones, or tissues. These preparations are done in controlled environments to ensure they are safe to use. Handling pure radioactive isotopes requires specialized facilities and expertise to prevent contamination and ensure safety, which most hospitals are not equipped for.

  • Regulations and Compliance: The use of radioactive substances is highly regulated. Radiopharmaceuticals are prepared by licensed facilities that comply with strict regulatory standards. These standards ensure that the drugs are consistently prepared with the correct amount of radioactivity and are safe for patient use.

  • Ready for Use: Radiopharmaceuticals are delivered ready for immediate use. This is crucial for maintaining the effectiveness of the radioactive isotopes, which may have short half-lives, meaning they lose their radioactivity quickly. Hospitals are equipped to store and handle these substances safely and use them effectively.

  • Clinical Needs: Hospitals require these substances in a form that is immediately applicable to patient care. Radiopharmaceuticals are used in diagnostic imaging, cancer therapy, and other treatments. They need to be in a form that can be easily administered to patients, which is not the case with raw isotopes.

So, while the isotopes are the active radioactive component, hospitals purchase them in the form of radiopharmaceuticals, which are the complete, administrable drugs designed for safe and effective diagnosis or treatment of various health conditions.

Who are the Buyers of Radiopharmaceuticals?


The buyers of radiopharmaceuticals are typically entities within several sub-sector markets in the healthcare industry. These specialized pharmaceuticals are used for diagnosis and therapy and are purchased by:

  • Hospitals and Clinics: Many hospitals and medical clinics, especially those with oncology, neurology, and cardiology departments, purchase radiopharmaceuticals. These facilities use radiopharmaceuticals for various diagnostic tests, including PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans and SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) scans, as well as for treatment purposes, particularly in the field of cancer therapy.

  • Diagnostic Imaging Centers: These are specialized centers that focus on medical imaging services. They require radiopharmaceuticals for procedures that involve imaging of specific organs, tissues, or bodily functions, providing crucial information that helps in the diagnosis and management of diseases.

  • Cancer Treatment Centers: Centers dedicated to treating cancer use therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals for certain types of cancer treatment. These drugs are used in radioimmunotherapy and other forms of targeted radiation therapy to destroy or damage cancer cells.

  • Research Institutions: Academic and private research institutions purchase radiopharmaceuticals for various studies and clinical trials. These organizations explore new applications for radiopharmaceuticals, investigate their effects, and work on developing new drugs.

  • Pharmaceutical Companies: Some pharmaceutical companies buy radiopharmaceuticals to use in research and development of new drugs, or they might distribute radiopharmaceuticals as part of their product lines.

  • Government Health Agencies: In certain cases, government health departments or agencies might procure radiopharmaceuticals, especially in the context of public health initiatives, emergency preparedness (in case of radiological emergencies), or national healthcare services.

The procurement of radiopharmaceuticals is regulated, and buyers often need to comply with specific storage, handling, and usage requirements due to the radioactive nature of these substances.


Additionally, the purchase and use of radiopharmaceuticals require skilled professionals, such as nuclear medicine physicians, radiologists, and technicians specialized in handling radioactive materials.

Who Sells Radiopharmaceuticals?


Radiopharmaceuticals are sold by specialized companies and entities that operate under strict regulatory compliance due to the sensitive nature of radioactive substances. These sellers include:

  • Radiopharmaceutical Companies: These are pharmaceutical firms specializing in the production and distribution of radiopharmaceuticals. They have the necessary facilities, expertise, and regulatory approval to manufacture these specialized drugs. Examples include companies like GE Healthcare, Bayer, and Cardinal Health.

  • Nuclear Research Centers: Some government or privately funded nuclear research institutions produce radiopharmaceuticals, often as a part of broader research initiatives. These centers have the technology and expertise to produce and sometimes commercialize radiopharmaceuticals.

  • Radiopharmacies: These are specialized pharmacies that prepare and dispense radiopharmaceuticals. Some are standalone facilities, while others are part of larger medical centers or hospital complexes. They handle a variety of radioactive materials and have the necessary infrastructure to store, prepare, and distribute radiopharmaceuticals safely.

  • Healthcare and Medical Supply Companies: Some larger healthcare supply companies have divisions dedicated to nuclear medicine supplies, including radiopharmaceuticals. These companies manage the supply chain logistics necessary to deliver radiopharmaceuticals promptly, given the time-sensitive nature of radioactive decay.

  • Universities and Academic Institutions: Some universities with advanced research programs in nuclear medicine or related fields produce radiopharmaceuticals, either for research purposes, commercial distribution, or both. They often work in collaboration with hospital networks or pharmaceutical companies.


These entities operate under strict regulatory oversight to ensure the safe handling, transportation, and use of radioactive substances.


The production and distribution of radiopharmaceuticals require adherence to specific quality standards, licensing, and often international regulations, especially if the radiopharmaceuticals are transported across national borders.

Who are the Manufacturers of Radiopharmaceuticals?

Manufacturers of radiopharmaceuticals are specialized companies that produce radioactive medications used primarily in the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases. These companies operate under stringent regulatory conditions due to the sensitive nature of radioactive substances. Here are some of the key players in the industry:

  • GE Healthcare: A subsidiary of General Electric, GE Healthcare, is a major provider of medical imaging equipment, including radiopharmaceuticals. They produce a range of diagnostic imaging agents used in scans such as PET and SPECT.

  • Curium: Curium is a prominent company in the nuclear medicine field, providing a wide array of radiopharmaceuticals. Their products are used in diagnostic imaging and therapy.

  • Lantheus Medical Imaging: Lantheus provides specialized diagnostic imaging agents and products, including radiopharmaceuticals, used globally. They are involved in the production and commercialization of several key products in nuclear medicine.

  • Cardinal Health: Cardinal Health supplies an array of medical products, including radiopharmaceuticals. They operate nuclear pharmacies and cyclotron facilities that produce and distribute radiopharmaceuticals for clinical use.

  • Jubilant DraxImage: A subsidiary of Jubilant Pharma Limited, Jubilant DraxImage, works in the field of nuclear medicine and produces and supplies radiopharmaceuticals for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.

  • Bayer: Known for a wide range of products across various health sectors, Bayer also produces radiopharmaceuticals, particularly for diagnostic imaging.

  • Advanced Accelerator Applications (AAA): A subsidiary of Novartis, AAA, is involved in developing, producing, and commercializing molecular nuclear medicine, radiopharmaceuticals, and related products.

  • NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes: This company focuses on the production and distribution of radioisotopes used in nuclear medicine, including the widely used technetium-99m.

  • Nordion: A part of Sotera Health, Nordion provides products used in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases. They are a leading provider of various isotopes in the medical field.

  • Bracco Imaging: Bracco is involved in the diagnostic imaging business, with a range of offerings across X-ray imaging, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound imaging, and nuclear medicine.

These companies often have a global reach, supplying hospitals, clinics, and research institutions worldwide with the radiopharmaceuticals needed for various medical applications.


They operate under strict regulatory oversight to ensure the safety, efficacy, and quality of their products.

Labour Shortage and Opportunity!

The Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council (CNIC), in their report "Securing Canadian Medical Isotope Talent and Expertise" highlights the critical need for skilled labor to support Canada's isotope industry.


Despite having a sophisticated isotope production pipeline and infrastructure, Canada faces potential setbacks due to labor shortages, recruiting and retaining skilled staff and a lack of emphasis on isotopes in educational institutions.


Here are some key takeaways from the report.


Challenges and Opportunities

  • CNIC members experience difficulties in accessing and retaining properly trained talent, with turnover rates climbing in recent years.

  • There's a disconnect in post-secondary institutions, contributing to the labor shortage and potentially stalling future growth.

  • Significant production growth is anticipated, with innovative projects underway. However, labor shortages could impede this progress, affecting life-saving treatments globally.

Government and Industry Response

  • Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s Minister of Labour, emphasizes investing in skilled trades training and employment services to support local opportunities and economic growth.

  • The industry's rapid growth necessitates a strategic approach to maintain Canada's leadership in the global isotope supply.

Strategic Recommendations

The report suggests several measures to combat these challenges

  • Collaborative programs between national labs, universities, and institutes for comprehensive education and training in isotopes.

  • Introduction of multi-disciplinary undergraduate tracks combining isotopes, science, and engineering.

  • Partnerships with the private sector for pre-employment training for specialized facilities.

  • Early industry engagement through expanded isotope and radiochemistry courses at the undergraduate level.

  • Public outreach to increase industry familiarity, aiding job retention and interest.

  • Utilization and expansion of federal programs to foster an academic network centered on radiochemistry and isotope applications.

CNIC advocates for proactive measures to ensure sufficient skilled labor, safeguarding Canada's thriving isotope industry on the international stage. The council continues to push for policies supporting this crucial sector, recognizing the profound impact of isotopes on healthcare and innovation globally.

Summary

The Southwestern Ontario Isotope Coalition (SOIC) marks a transformative moment in healthcare innovation with its official introduction, promising to revolutionize medical isotope production on a global scale.


Born from a strategic collaboration among key regional players, the SOIC is actively enhancing the production, development, and application of medical isotopes, particularly in the fight against cancer.


The coalition's primary goals include boosting medical isotope production and utilization, fostering collaborative partnerships across various sectors, and driving economic and community development. These concerted efforts are positioning the Southwestern Ontario region as a pivotal contributor to the global market.


The launch event showed the unique capabilities of the Grey Bruce area, emphasizing its potential as an emerging hub for isotope excellence. The initiative is not just a local endeavor but a significant leap forward in medical science, global health improvement, and economic growth, showcasing the region's readiness to contribute substantially to global healthcare innovation.


Local businesses and organizations in Grey Bruce are leading the charge, demonstrating their commitment and advanced readiness in the market. They are not mere participants but trailblazers, actively shaping the future of medical isotopes.


The "Isotopes for Hope" report underscores the booming market potential for medical isotopes, projecting substantial growth by 2031. The report emphasizes Canada's pivotal role in the global supply chain, highlighting its comprehensive infrastructure and ongoing innovations in the field.


In the realm of nuclear medicine, medical isotopes are invaluable, offering unique insights into diagnosing and treating various conditions, including cancer. Hospitals and clinics typically purchase radiopharmaceuticals, which are specialized drugs containing medical isotopes, ready for immediate use in diagnosis and treatment.


The Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council (CNIC) report stresses the urgent need for skilled labor in Canada's isotope industry, advocating for strategic educational and collaborative programs to support this burgeoning sector. The council's recommendations aim to ensure a steady supply of skilled professionals, essential for sustaining Canada's influential position in the global isotope landscape.


About the Author

Chris Herbert spearheads Mi6 Agency, emphasizing small business growth and entrepreneurship. On the agency's blog, he offers practical marketing insights and solutions to unique challenges faced by businesses. Herbert advocates for sustainable and responsible growth. His "Rural Entrepreneur Podcast" extends this mission, providing essential advice and experiences for entrepreneurs. He adopts a comprehensive approach, focusing on building sustainable businesses, community engagement, and active participation in entrepreneurial ventures.


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