Science, Health and Technology
8:41 am
Tue November 12, 2013

MU partners with GPI for medical advances

MU campus
Credit cindyt7070 / Flickr

Some hearts could be beating a little easier after news that medical advances could be coming to Columbia. 

MU and Global PET Imaging signed a letter of intent to create a processing facility at MU’s Discovery Ridge.  The plan is for the facility to have a machine called a cyclotron which creates Strontium-82.  Cardiologists use Strontium-82 to create Rubidium-82, which is used during PET scans to see if heart attack victims need heart bypass surgery. 

GPI Executive Chairman Rod Martin said there is a shortage of this isotope because cardiologists are starting PET scanners more frequently.  Martin said the U.S. Department of Energy produces the majority of the Strontium-82, which is needed to produce Rubidium-82. Martin also said the new cyclotron they are planning to make at MU will greatly help the shortage. 

“We want to increase world supply of strontium that is made into the rubidium," Martin said.  "And actually, the facility at the University of Missouri that we are going to build is expected to double the world’s supply of Rubidium, so we’re pretty excited about it."

Martin says GPI expects to pay more than $20 million for the cyclotron.

GPI contacted several companies to partner with that were knowledgeable in the science of isotopes, and MU's Vice Provost for Economic Development Steve Wyatt said many of the companies referred GPI to the University of Missouri's Research Reactor Center, or MURR.

Wyatt said companies recommended that GPI talk to MURR because it would be a great partner due to its wide range of skills and capabilities in the science field.

Both Wyatt and Martin agree the partnership will bring many positives.

"This is also going to be a really significant research facility," Martin said.  "It will be the only one of its kind at a university anywhere in the United States.  If you want to do the kind of high-end, particle physics research that the University of Missouri is going to be able to do with this facility, you're only going to be able to do it at the University of Missouri."

Wyatt said the processing facility would bring more companies in the medical isotope cluster to the Columbia area, which could create more high paying jobs.  He says the partnership and facility will give MU researchers and graduate students access to equipment they would not otherwise have.

Wyatt said MU is working closely with GPI to finalize business details needed to start the project.  Martin said the current plan is to have GPI provide funding while the scientists from MURR provide the expertise to run the facility. 

No firm dates have been set for the start of construction.