Feds give major boost to SHINE project in Janesville

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012
— SHINE Medical Technologies got a major boost Tuesday when the federal government announced it would contribute $10.2 million to the company's planned medical isotope plant in Janesville.

Technically, the grant amount is for $20.6 million, and it will go to the Morgridge Institute for Research, a SHINE partner in the Janesville project.

Because it's a matching grant, SHINE must come up with about half of the award total, about $10.4 million, said Greg Piefer, SHINE's chief executive officer.

"We've already raised our share of that," Piefer said. "It's more than about the money. This is a huge show of faith and confidence from the federal government in what we're doing."

SHINE plans to build an $85 million production facility on the city's south side that would initially make molybdenum-99, a medical isotope used in more than 30 different diagnostic imaging procedures that are performed more than 50,000 times each day in the United States.

In February, the city approved a $9 million development agreement that's contingent on the company meeting several benchmarks, including federal licensing and the creation of 125 high-paying jobs in Janesville.

The company is now moving down what can be a tedious regulatory and licensing path.

Piefer said the SHINE plant would create more than 150 permanent jobs with the possibility of additional employment growth. The company hopes to start production by 2015.

The 50,000-square foot plant will sit on an 84-acre parcel the city bought and annexed across Highway 51 from the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.

In Rock County, SHINE could join another medical isotope maker, NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes, which plans to build a plant in Beloit and create more than 150 jobs by 2016.

SHINE and NorthStar are two of just three U.S. companies supported by the National Nuclear Security Administration as it pushes for a more reliable and diverse supply of Mo-99, which is primarily used for detecting heart disease and determining stages of cancer progression.

Historically, most Mo-99 used in the United States has been produced in Canada and the Netherlands using highly enriched uranium in high power research reactors. Both the Canadian and Netherlands reactors are operating beyond their licensed lives, and unscheduled shutdowns of the reactors in 2009 and 2010 caused worldwide shortages that delayed or canceled millions of medical procedures.

Thomas "Rock" Mackie, director of medical devices at Morgridge, said the nonprofit research institute will be the prime contractor on the project. Mackie said the funding will support a dozen Morgridge Institute employees focusing on technical aspects of the project while SHINE uses the balance to develop its Janesville plant.

"A collaborative project of this scope would not be possible without the commitment of federal funds, and we are grateful for the continuing support of the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration through this agreement with the Morgridge Institute," Piefer said.

"This funding, in combination with financial and technical support from the city of Janesville, the Knox venture capital group and the Morgridge Institute, is critical as we strive to establish a safer and more reliable supply of molybdenum-99 produced without the use of highly enriched uranium."

Piefer said Morgridge and SHINE are eligible for up to a total of $25 million in federal funding.

"This really accelerates the project and keeps us on schedule, which is always subject to regulatory uncertainties," he said.

Since the city approved a development agreement with SHINE, the company has moved into a demonstration facility in Monona.

The facility, Piefer said, allows the company to demonstrate its production model to investors and gather safety data that's useful to federal regulators. It also allows SHINE to fine-tune its production system, he said.

"We've also been working quite hard on the final design plans for the facility in Janesville," he said. "Everything is progressing quite nicely."

Last updated: 8:37 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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