Lab Canada

CLS celebrates first shipment of medical isotopes

 Saskatoon, SK – Scientists at the Canadian Light Source have announced the first shipment of medical isotopes produced in its dedicated linear accelerator.

The Medical Isotope Project (MIP) facility at the CLS is the first of its kind in the world, relying on powerful X-rays to produce the isotopes, unlike traditional nuclear reactor-based methods. The project was funded by Natural Resources Canada’s Isotope Technology Acceleration Program (ITAP), and the Government of Saskatchewan, in partnership with the Prairie Isotope Production Enterprise (PIPE), a not-for-profit corporation based in Manitoba, whose goal is to develop a reliable supply of isotopes for Canadian patients.

“We are excited to be producing medical isotopes at this critical time in history,” said Rob Lamb, CLS’ CEO. “To be part of a project that will meet the health needs of so many Canadians, that is the most gratifying element.”


The MIP uses a particle accelerator to bombard a target made of enriched molybdenum-100 metal (Mo-100) with high-energy X-rays. The X-rays knock a neutron out of the nuclei of some of the Mo-100 atoms in the target, converting them to the isotope Mo-99. The Mo-99 decays into technetium-99m (Tc-99m), which is used for tagging radiopharmaceuticals for medical diagnostic tests. After the Mo-99 has decayed, the remaining Mo-100 in the solution is recovered and recycled into additional targets.  


Tc-99m is by far the most used medical isotope in Canada with about 5,000 medical scans daily. Two or three accelerator systems like the MIP facility could produce enough medical isotopes to supply all of Canada.


The MIP will continue to test the production of the isotopes until approval from Health Canada is obtained, at which time the CLS and PIPE will become leading suppliers of isotopes to healthcare facilities across western Canada and northwest Ontario, by 2016.


CLS, PIPE, and their partners say they will continue to work together to expand this first-in-the-world technology. In addition, through commercialization and spin off opportunities, the partners plan to export this made-in-Canada technology around the world.