Medical sciences company plans construction of radioisotope facility in Columbia

May 8, 2014

Credit Amylovesyah / Flickr

An Oregon-based medical sciences company announced this morning a multimillion-dollar plan to build a radioisotope production facility in Columbia.

The MU-owned Discovery Ridge Research Park will serve as the site for Northwest Medical Isotopes’ facility, which will primarily produce an isotope known as molybdenum-99. Molybdenum-99 is used to produce technetium-99, which is then used in diagnostic scans for cancer, heart, bone and kidney diseases. Columbia mayor Bob McDavid mentioned the scope of molybdenum’s use in the U.S. -- as well as the status of the two foreign labs currently producing molybdenum-99 -- while explaining the importance of building the first such facility in the United States.

“It’s a medical test that’s done [for] 50 thousand patients a day in the United States, and it would be terrible, medically, if we lost that material,” McDavid said. “And we’re at risk of losing it in three years because the sources are being shut down. So we’re going to produce it right here.”

Development plans include a $50 million capital investment and the creation of 68 new jobs to maintain the facility. Despite the current lack of a domestic producer of molybdenum-99, the US currently uses approximately half of the isotope’s global supply. The medical sciences company projects that the Columbia lab will meet 50 percent of the North American demand of molybdenum-99 when it operates at full capacity.

NMI founder and CEO Nicholas Fowler listed four factors that influenced his company’s selection of a Columbia site: the city’s geographic central location, the depth of NMI’s relationship with MU, the city’s highly-skilled work force, and the reception NMI has received from Columbia’s business, civil and political communities.

“We’ve worked with city hall, the regional economic development, state economic development, and the University,” Fowler said. “The civic leaders and business leaders have all spoken with one voice and have been very welcoming. It’s been extremely important to us in our decision-making process.”