McMaster to spearhead collaborative project on building a resilient Canadian medical isotope supply chain

A production technician at McMaster's Nuclear Reactor packs up medical isotopes (I-125) for shipment

In June, the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council (CNIC) and Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII) announced a joint study to identify challenges — and evaluate potential technology, logistical, regulatory and policy solutions – facing Canada’s medical isotope supply chain.

Today that partnership took a major leap forward with McMaster University formally agreeing to lead the research and development of the project.  Through this initiative, McMaster University will lead the project, defining its scope and undertaking the rigorous analysis while the CNIC and NII will provide oversight, direction and help the university connect with other critical stakeholder organizations that can assist with the project.

“McMaster is well positioned to take the the lead on the project’s research and development, based on our track record of innovation,” said Karen Mossman, vice-president, Research, McMaster University. “This collaboration with NII and the CNIC allows us to leverage our collective strengths to ensure the appropriate national medical isotope stakeholders are engaged with the project on some level.”

While Canada is a leader in the production and global supply of isotopes that play a major role in diagnosing and treating many forms of cancer, the vulnerability of that supply chain persists. Because of the just-in-time delivery and sole-sourced production of some of these critical life-saving isotopes, small disruptions anywhere along the supply chain can have a huge impact on patient care.

“When it comes to this project, it is fundamentally about ensuring that we as Canadians, business leaders, and sector champions are doing all that we can to help make sure that patients have access to critical life-saving isotopes when they are needed,” said James Scongack, chair of the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council.

“Working with McMaster and NII on this project will protect these patients, and help us to understand the challenges, opportunities and innovations available to ensure a reliable and robust supply of these life-saving isotopes now and into the future.”

The project will roll out over a multi-phased approach with the initial phase looking to place a value on the cost of supply chain disruptions to patients and the industry.

“The decentralized nature of our health care system leaves gaps in statistics and in our understanding of the medical isotope supply chain,” said Bruce Wallace, president and CEO, NII. “It is essential we fill this knowledge gap to demonstrate to Canadians and our governments the vital importance of medical isotopes, and to enhance our ability to ensure a resilient supply of these life-saving products.”

The study is scheduled to be released in the fourth quarter of 2020 with a virtual stakeholder update session to be held before the end of September.

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