Minister of State (S&T) Rickford Visits AAPS

On Wednesday January 8, 2014, the Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of State for Science and Technology, visited AAPS Inc. during his tour of TRIUMF. Accompanied by Member of Parliament for Vancouver-South Wai Young, Minister Rickford enjoyed a hands-on experience of the latest technology that AAPS is developing in their mission to commercialize cutting-edge research for the benefit of all Canadians. Rickford was guided around the facilities on an express tour with Jim Hanlon, President and CEO (AAPS Inc.) and CEO/CAO (TRIUMF), and Reiner Kruecken, Head of Science Division (TRIUMF).

During his tour, Minister Rickford learned of AAPS’ efforts to address the global medical isotope shortage through the commercialization of new target technology developed by TRIUMF and its partners, BC Cancer Agency, Lawson Health Research Institute, and the Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization. Technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the medical radiotracer used in more than 90% of medical single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) diagnostic imaging procedures, has traditionally been manufactured in nuclear reactors by irradiating highly enriched Uranium-235. However, the unscheduled shutdowns and planned de-commissioning of several key nuclear reactors have resulted in worldwide shortages of Tc-99m and justified fear of continuing sporadic supply. International governments’ nonproliferation policies provide further impetus for an alternate source of Tc-99m.

To address these problems, AAPS has formed ARTMS Products Inc., which intends to be the manufacturer and distributor of solid targets for cyclotron direct production of Tc-99m. These targets will be used in existing cyclotrons housed in hospitals or laboratories to produce a high yield of Tc-99m. Providing decentralized production, reliable yields, and consistent isotopic purity while generating little long-lasting waste, ARTMS’ target technology offers a viable alternative to the use of Uranium-235 and the need for nuclear reactors in the production of Tc-99m.

During his visit, Minister Rickford had the opportunity to inspect the solid target assembly manufactured through AAPS for ARTMS. Neil McLean, AAPS CTO, explained that after only a six-hour irradiation of the target, enough Tc-99m can be produced for all the diagnostic procedures performed in Metro Vancouver the next day. MP Wai Young also expressed her support of the technology, stating, “from cyclotrons to e-wearables, the projects funded by our government will change the world.”

The visit comes just as Minister Rickford announced the launch of a consultation that will seek input from Canadians on a new federal Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy. As part of the approach, the government has released a discussion paper that solicits the public’s ideas and recommendations on how best to shape federal policy on science, technology and innovation.

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Minister Rickford thanked TRIUMF and AAPS for the visit. He enjoyed learning about their current projects and appreciated their efforts to harness TRIUMF’s research excellence for the benefit of all Canadians.