Molybdenum-99, or Mo-99, is a key isotope used in stress tests, bone scans and several other medical procedures to help assess a potential fracture or other serious conditions such as heart disease or cancer. North America is the largest consumer of the Mo-99. However, almost all the Mo-99 used in U.S. medical facilities comes from overseas.
SHINE Technologies is hoping to change that by building a facility that would produce Mo-99 and create jobs in Janesville. SHINE’s campus currently includes its headquarters and an 11,400-square-foot technology development facility in Janesville. Plus, they’re currently constructing a 43,000-square-foot-plant to ramp up manufacturing of Mo-99.
SHINE moved its headquarters to Janesville in 2016 and continues to build manufacturing capacity there due to the workforce, the community and support from the city. The company’s founder and CEO, Greg Piefer, noted at the time, “The relationship between Janesville and SHINE has always been a top priority, and now it’ll be home.”
Janesville also comes with the benefit of being physically close to the ecosystem in Wisconsin that supports SHINE’s technology including the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, as well as a strong source of local fundraising and investment support.
Once fully operational, this production facility, which they call “The Chrysalis,” will potentially be capable of supplying an estimated one-third of the global demand for Mo-99—good news for patients and physicians alike. When faced with shortages of Mo-99, physicians and hospitals are sometimes forced to use other scanning technologies that potentially expose patients to higher doses of radioactivity.
Manufacturing in Wisconsin means that there will be a ready supply of the isotope for markets across North America, overcoming today’s supply chain issues and challenges that come with overseas production. Currently, with nearly all the isotope coming in from abroad, hospitals are at the mercy of overseas nuclear reactors. When they are shut down for maintenance, the entire world faces shortages. To add to the supply chain issues, Mo-99 has a half-life of 66 hours and, as a result, existing producers lose about one-third of their production to decay in transit to the U.S.
Far-reaching benefits of SHINE’s Technology
Serving patients and hospitals is only one of the benefits of the innovation that SHINE Technologies is bringing to the market. SHINE is developing its facility with a nuclear fusion-based low enrichment uranium (LEU) fusion technology. This technology produces the isotope at a fraction of today’s cost and, more importantly, does so without the need for a reactor and employs a re-usable liquid that the company says generates one one-hundredth of the waste from traditional production processes.
The Qualified New Business Venture (QNBV) designation that SHINE received from the Wisconsin Economic Development Council (WEDC) has helped the company attract investors and ensure the new facility, and associated jobs, get created in southern Wisconsin. The QNBV Program is designed to incent equity investment in technology-based businesses by providing tax credits to eligible Angel and Venture Fund investors who make cash equity investments in qualified early-stage businesses. The investments made as a part of this program provide the capital necessary for emerging growth companies to develop, grow and provide high-quality jobs here in Wisconsin.
In addition to the new facilities and the jobs, the investment will help solidify Wisconsin’s status as a leader and innovator in incubating entrepreneurs with cutting-edge healthcare technologies. The Wisconsin Technology Council reports that young, Wisconsin-based companies raised more than $810 million from Angel and Venture Capitalists in 2021.
Isotopes are just the beginning for SHINE
The development of differentiated medical isotope production is just one step in SHINE’s multi-phase growth plan. The four phases are: neutron imaging, medical isotope production, recycling nuclear waste, and clean energy generation.
“The goal of each phase of our approach is to create societal value while building additional capability and deepening our understanding of fusion technology as we progress to clean energy production,” Piefer said.
“As we bring these production facilities online, we plan to move into nuclear waste recycling and clean energy production, the next two phases of our business journey,” explained Piefer. “By doing so, we will continue to build long-term value for our stakeholders, including our customers, physicians and their patients, our employees and our shareholders.”