Lawson Health Research Institute scientists are playing critical role in solving one of health care’s most pressing issues. Dr. Michael Kovacs, Director of the Nordal Cyclotron and PET Radiochemistry Facility located at St. Joseph’s Hospital is a member of a Canadian team of six scientists that, in February, received the 2015 Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering. The team, composed of experts in physics, chemistry and nuclear medicine, is addressing the impending shortage of medical radioisotope technetium-99m (Tc-99m) currently used around the world and in more than 1 million nuclear imaging scans annually in Canada to diagnose cancer and heart disease. The world’s largest producer of medical isotopes – the nuclear reactor at Atomic Energy of Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories – is winding down operations. Canada has to find an alternate source.
Thanks to the team’s breakthrough technology, hospitals and companies will be able to retrofit current infrastructure with a made-in-Canada solution for producing Tc-99m in the event of another isotope crisis. Major Canadian hospitals will be able to use their own medical cyclotrons to produce enough Tc-99m for all their clinical needs.