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MU Seeks $10 MillionĀ 

Supporting Nuclear MedicineĀ 

If there’s a magic word lawmakers want to hear before they spend state money, it’s “jobs.”

In a year when the University of Missouri’s budget is being battered, directors of the MU Research Reactor will need a little magic to get the $10 million they seek to build new training and lab space. If approved, the funding would allow the reactor to promise prospective tenants at the Discovery Ridge Research Park trained people ready to work in the growing field of nuclear medicine.

Northwest Medical Isotopes, an Oregon company, is about halfway through obtaining permits to build a $50 million facility at Discovery Ridge to supply material for medical imaging, CEO Nick Fowler said. The company expects to employ 68 people, and reactor officials see it as the first arrival for what they hope will be a cluster of companies processing and shipping products nationally.

“Our central geographic location is a huge advantage for patients,” reactor Assistant Director Ken Brooks said. “Because these materials have a short shelf life, we can distribute throughout the U.S. That’s a huge advantage for the university.” Northwest will process molybdenum, irradiated at the research reactor, for delivery to companies that load it into containers incorporating a device known as a generator.

As the molybdenum decays, it becomes an element called technetium, used about 50,000 times a day for cardiac and other medical imaging. There is no domestic supplier. A loaded generator can supply technetium for about a week, so speedy processing and delivery is essential to obtain the maximum value from each generator.

When Brooks and his boss, reactor Executive Director Ralph Butler, talk about the possibilities for producing molybdenum, they start finishing each other’s sentences.

“In the world of short-lived isotopes and radiopharmaceuticals …” Brooks began to say.

“It is all about logistics,” Butler finished.

The facility envisioned for the lab space isn’t flashy — renderings show a boxy building adjacent to the others surrounding the reactor — but it must be built to create training labs and classrooms to support an anticipated influx of employers, Butler said. The proposal was endorsed by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce in its legislative platform.

For more of this story visit the Columbia Daily Tribune's Website.