February 17, 2015 - Lawson Scientist Receives Prestigious Brockhouse Canada Prize

A Lawson Health Research Institute scientist is part of a cross-Canada collaboration whose work to provide a solution to the impending isotope shortage has garnered national attention. 

Dr. Michael Kovacs, Lawson scientist and Director of the Cyclotron and PET Radiochemistry Facility at St. Joseph’s Health Care London is a member of a team of six scientists in Canada to receive the 2015 Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering. 

The team, composed of experts in physics, chemistry and nuclear medicine, is addressing the impending shortage of medical radioisotope technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the most popular medical isotope in the world and currently used in more than 1 million nuclear imaging scans annually in Canada to diagnose cancer and heart disease. The world’s largest producer of medical isotopes – the 57-year old NRU nuclear reactor at Atomic Energy of Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories – is winding down operations, prompting Canada to find an alternate source.

Thanks to the team’s breakthrough technology, hospitals and companies will be able to retrofit current infrastructure with a made-in-Canada solution for producing Tc-99m in the event of another isotope crisis.  Major Canadian hospitals will be able to use their own medical cyclotrons to produce enough Tc-99m for their daily needs in just one night. The innovation is safer than current technology as it eliminates the need to use weapons-grade radioactive uranium, which is currently shipped across international borders to produce Tc-99m.

"The Lawson cyclotron group is very proud to share this prestigious award for collaborative research with our pan-Canadian partners," Kovacs says. "Utilizing our state-of-the-art facilities, we have demonstrated that a reliable supply of cyclotron-produced Tc-99m for patients in the London region and across the country is now possible."

The research team is working with a Canadian start-up company to license, transfer and sell this technology around the world.  The award provides a team grant of $250,000.

For more information on Lawson Imaging, please visit www.lawsonimaging.ca. 


About Lawson Health Research Institute
Lawson Health Research Institute, located in London, Ontario, is one of Canada’s largest and most respected hospital-based research institutes. As the research arm of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London, and working in partnership with Western University, Lawson is committed to furthering scientific knowledge to advance health care around the world. Its state-of-the-art, nuclear imaging program includes Canada’s first and only PET/MRI scanner, a PET/CT scanner, and the Cyclotron & PET Radiochemistry Facility, a modern GMP facility operating under a Health Canada Drug Establishment License. The facility includes a GE PETtrace 880 cyclotron with F-18, C-11, N-13 and high-powered solid target capabilities, class 100 shielded hot cells, and automated synthesis units for F-18 and C-11 radiopharmaceuticals. The Lawson Imaging program is focused on translating research discoveries through commercialization and to clinical use.


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