Medical isotope plant on track
JANESVILLE Barring any regulatory curveballs, a company that plans to produce medical isotopes in Janesville is on track to open an $85 million plant with 150 employees in early 2016.
In fact, SHINE Medical Technologies is just about ready to crank up a full-scale model accelerator that's critical to the production of molybdenum-99 and other medical isotopes used by millions of people each year.
Earlier this year, SHINE moved from offices in Madison to a demonstration facility in Monona that's large enough to test equipment, said Greg Piefer, SHINE's founder and chief executive officer.
"Although the model is relatively low budget, it's full scale, and we're trying everything we can to break it," Piefer said. "The idea is to show that the technology works and eliminate any bugs."
Piefer and his SHINE team will be in Janesville next week for an update on the project, which was formally announced in January.
"We're committed to keeping the community informed," he said. "We want to let people know where we are and answer any questions they might have."
SHINE's plant in Janesville would initially produce 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 U.S.
In February, the city approved a $5 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 package also includes a city guarantee on a $4 million loan from private investors.
SHINE plans to build a 50,000-square foot plant on an 84-acre parcel the city bought and annexed across Highway 51 from the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.
In addition to testing equipment in Monona, the company is working on design plans for the Janesville facility and meeting regulatory and licensing requirements.
Piefer said the company hopes to submit its final application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission between March and June.
"The regulatory end of things is moving along," Piefer said. "The NRC is very curious in what we're doing, is very cooperative and is in the information gathering stage.
"It's a good agency to work with. They've been out to the site and have looked at our preliminary designs and have made suggestions."
SHINE is one of two companies moving ahead with plans to produce Mo-99 in Rock County. The other is NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes, which plans to build a plant in Beloit.
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.
Piefer said the Canadian reactor is scheduled for permanent shutdown in October 2016. When that happens, one-third of the world supply of Mo-99 will disappear.
"For us, a product deployment in early 2016 is really ideal," he said. "We will be in position to fill that gap caused by the loss of a third of an already stretched supply."
SHINE is expected to receive up to $25 million from the federal government. It's already raised more than $11 million in an initial round of venture funding. A second round will launch soon with a goal of another $20 million, Piefer said.
The company, he said, plans to complete the project in Janesville with money from other private sources, he said, adding that the cost of the entire project likely will exceed the initial estimate of $85 million.
"If that happens, that's good news for the city," Piefer said. "The city will get paid back its tax increment finance money much quicker."
That's because in SHINE's case, the company would pay property taxes that—according to a state Supreme Court ruling—would be based on the facility's construction cost because there are no comparable facilities in the area.
If you go
What: SHINE Medical Technologies will present an update on its progress in the development and planning for its Janesville medical isotope facility. Anyone interested in learning about the company, its products or the facility is invited to attend. There will be an opportunity for questions and answers at the end of the event.
When: 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14
Where: Holiday Inn Express & Janesville Conference Center, 3100 Wellington Place, Janesville.