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In this 2018 Gazette photo, NorthStar President and CEO Stephen Merrick shows a machine used in the generation of medical radioisotopes at NorthStar's Beloit headquarters.

BELOIT

Rock County has taken another step toward becoming a national hub for medical Molybdenum-99 production and distribution.

Beloit startup NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes on Tuesday announced that it has closed the loop on a $100 million financing deal that will bolster its capacity to process and produce moly-99.

NorthStar said it has secured $75 million in financing from health care investor Oberland Capital Management, with an option for an additional $25 million over the next year and a half.

The company said it will use the financing to increase production of moly-99, a bone- and tissue-illuminating isotope used in many medical imaging tests.

NorthStar’s corporate headquarters is in Beloit, but company officials said it uses a government nuclear reactor in Columbia, Missouri, to produce all the moly-99 it supplies to the health care market.

For months, NorthStar has been commercially producing and supplying both moly-99 and its RadioGenix System, a set of equipment used to generate Technetium-99m.

Technetium-99m is the active radioisotope that is injected into patients during medical imaging tests. It’s derived from moly-99.

The Oberland financing deal comes as NorthStar moves toward processing moly-99 and related solutions at a new facility in Beloit, which could be operating later this year.

NorthStar plans eventual production of moly-99 in Beloit using electronic particle accelerators in a third facility that could break ground later this year, CEO Stephen Merrick said.

Merrick said production of moly-99 in Beloit is likely a few years off. NorthStar would have to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In the near term, NorthStar intends to use its newly secured financing to improve efficiency in its current method of moly-99 production and processing at its Columbia location, and to enhance its RadioGenix equipment, Merrick said.

He said NorthStar has grown to 160 employees. Its goal is to eventually have “dual” moly-99 production and processing capacity in Columbia and Beloit.

Dual production and processing, under NorthStar’s business model, would ensure a stable domestic supply of a material that’s used in thousands of medical tests daily.

Moly-99 naturally decays within hours, which means companies that produce it can’t store it long term.

That’s part of the supply problem, and it’s why the federal government has encouraged domestic production of an isotope that historically has been produced with aging foreign reactors and shipped to the U.S. by air. The foreign reactors are old and occasionally must be shut down for maintenance.

Another moly-99 startup, SHINE Medical Technologies, is breaking ground this month on a moly-99 production facility on Janesville’s south side. SHINE has said it could ramp up manufacturing by 2022.

Merrick said NorthStar’s recent entry to the domestic moly-99 market already is “helping mitigate the supply problem, which seems to be happening every week.”

“We’re very happy that patients are getting their procedures on time,” he said.

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