A private, nonprofit research institute on the UW Madison campus has signed a $20 million deal with the U.S. Department of Energy. The Morgridge Institute will oversee production of an isotope that's used in common medical tests, but is in short supply.
55,000 patients in the U.S. have screening tests daily that use the isotope molybdenum. These imaging procedures diagnose heart disease, bone cancer and help study brain and kidney function. Most of the substance is made by nuclear reactors in Canada and the Netherlands. The U.S. sends those reactors highly-enriched uranium to manufacture the medical isotope. Thomas "Rock" Mackie is the director of medical devices at the Morgridge Institute. He says the Department of Energy is always concerned about the safe transportation of weapons grade uranium, "The U.S. has never liked sending this kind of material; Canada and the Netherlands are very friendly countries but still it's a proliferation issue, potentially."
The Morgridge Institute and SHINE Medical Technologies of Monona are developing a way to make the medical isotope domestically, using low grade uranium that does not require a nuclear reactor.