ATLANTA, June 3, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Perma-Fix Environmental Services, Inc. (NASDAQ: PESI) today announced it has signed an exclusive option agreement with Battelle, which operates Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy, to license technology from PNNL for use with Perma-Fix's proprietary process to safely and cost-effectively produce Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), which is used to make Technetium 99m (Tc-99m).Tc-99m is the most widely used medical isotope in the world, and allows medical practitioners to image internal body organs. The option agreement follows the successful development of a proprietary manufacturing process for medical isotopes developed independently by Perma-Fix, as well as successful completion of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between Perma-Fix and PNNL. Perma-Fix has applied for patents covering various steps of the process and will incorporate PNNL's technology into its process.
Tc-99m is used in the nuclear medicine field for 80-85% of the approximately 25 million diagnostic nuclear medical procedures performed each year, from functional cardiac imaging aiding in the diagnosis of a large number of heart diseases; cancer detection bone scans; gastrointestinal issues; and imaging of the brain, kidney, spleen and infections. There is no domestic source of Mo-99, and nearly all of the world's Mo-99 supply comes from the thermal fission of highly enriched uranium (HEU) targets in foreign reactors, which is a costly and unreliable source of radioactive material and raises serious proliferation concerns. Production issues have caused severe worldwide shortages in the supply chain of Mo-99, disrupting medical procedures. These shortages are due to aging reactors, production interruptions, limitations on starting materials, and increasing demand for the isotope, which is now used in over 40,000 procedures per day in the United States alone. Today's shortages are exacerbated by the present shutdown of the National Research Universal reactor at Chalk River Laboratories in Canada, the major source of Tc-99m in the U.S.
Perma-Fix's new Mo-99 production process encompasses the full production cycle from reactor to final medical supply. Unlike conventional sources, the new process can produce Tc-99m from natural Molybdenum using research or commercial reactors and offers important advantages over the current production methods, including a more stable supply of the radioactive isotope.