Sydney’s new nuclear medicine facility moves forward towards completion

The international medical community is closely watching Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, as one of the world’s newest and most advanced nuclear medicine production facilities, moves forward towards completion.

At the Lucas Heights, Sydney, campus of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), construction of the ANSTO Nuclear Medicine plant is now nearing completion.

ANSTO Nuclear Medicine (ANM) will help ensure supplies of Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), as international demand grows from 40 million doses a year, but the reactors that currently produce a large proportion of this supply will soon shut down.

Mo-99 is the parent isotope used in hospitals and medical centres to supply Technetium-99 (Tc-99m) - the most widely-used nuclear medicine - to diagnose heart, lung and muscular skeletal conditions, as well as a variety of cancers.

Jayne Senior has now been appointed the new General Manager of ANSTO Nuclear Medicine (ANM) Pty Ltd, to oversee the projects movement from the operational readiness phase into full operational status.

“This is a very large, interesting and challenging project that can potentially meet up to a quarter of the world’s demand of Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99),” said Senior.

Senior is a scientist by training, having worked in the research space before moving into the commercial sector. Her most recent previous role was as General Manager of Genetics Australia.

ANM is being jointly delivered by ANSTO’s operational readiness team run by Michael Druce, a construction team managed by Andy Garcia, and policy staff developing international and commercial agreements.

“We have three different arms of ANSTO working closely together to ensure ANM is delivered as quickly as possible, whilst achieving all the relevant compliance and regulatory milestones,” said Senior.

As construction of the building nears completion, and hot cells are now being installed to handle and manipulate radioactive products from the OPAL nuclear reactor, Senior is ready for the ramp up to begin.

Complex supply chain management will be a key challenge in this space, and Senior said she will be drawing on all of her experience to make the project a commercial success.

“When it is up and running, the logistical challenge will be to get Mo-99 from A to point B before it decays too much and stops being radioactive – a complex task when ‘B’ is in another hemisphere,” she said.

“Ensuring the product reaches its destination with maximum radioactive activity is crucial to our end users, who need it to conduct life-saving procedures.

“With 40 million doses of nuclear medicine used globally each year, 10 million of which are expected to come from ANM by the end of 2017, efficiency in the transport from Sydney to the world will be essential.”

When the Canadian supplier of nuclear medicine shuts down from October 2016, supply to the US and elsewhere will be affected. ANM will help meet that global demand.

“There is very strong justification for this project, in producing a key component of potentially life-saving medication,” said Senior.

“The international medical community is counting on this project succeeding, and I have great optimism about the coming months as we hit key milestones, and count down to live production.”

Senior’s education includes two Masters of Science, in Genetics and Bio-Aeronautics from UK universities.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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