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April 10, 2019 | Tom Ballard

Coquí Radio Pharmaceuticals making progress on building isotope production facility after DOE land transfer is approved

Great news for Oak Ridge and a company that has announced plans to locate in the community.

Coquí Radio Pharmaceuticals Corporation announced yesterday that it is closer to realizing its goal of building a dedicated Medical Isotope Production Facility in Oak Ridge after the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) transferred land for the facility and provided research support through the national laboratories.

Coquí’s facility will produce medical isotopes that diagnose and treat diseases, primarily Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), which is used in 18 million medical procedures a year in the U.S. The DOE land transfer to Coquí of 206 acres in the Heritage Center Industrial Park places the company in a strategic location adjacent to federal research assets including Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex.

Once fully operational, the facility will be the first of its kind in the U.S., which currently relies on imports to meet its Mo-99 needs. The most widely used medical isotope in the world, Mo-99 is relied on to diagnose and treat diseases including brain, heart, lung, liver, renal, oncologic, and muscle skeletal diseases.

“Coquí is best positioned to meet the demand for lifesaving medical isotopes because our technology is commercially proven and is used in the current supply chain,” said Carmen I. Bigles, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Coquí. INVAP, the world’s leading designer and developer of medical isotope production facilities, is leading the design work on the new facility. Coquí has an exclusive license with INVAP to use its technology in the United States.

Global supplies of Mo-99 are becoming increasingly unreliable as facilities capable of producing the isotope age and shut down. Mo-99 shortages, such as the one that occurred in November 2018, deprive patients from receiving lifesaving diagnostics and treatment. The U.S. currently has no domestic production source. The Coquí facility is expected to be fully operational in 2025 and will provide more than 200 high paying, permanent jobs.

“This land acquisition provides many advantages,” Bigles said. “Oak Ridge is home to several DOE and TVA nuclear facilities, providing a strong nuclear and engineering workforce. By growing our company in Oak Ridge we can leverage world-class research assets like Oak Ridge National Lab and the Y-12 National Security Complex.”

DOE has provided further support for the Coquí facility through research funding. These funds support Coquí’s partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the nearby Y-12 National Security Complex to conduct further research on Mo-99 target plate fabrication and qualification.

Coquí’s decision to locate its production facility in Oak Ridge makes its collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex easier and more efficient.

“This research partnership is critical and supports our efforts to obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Food and Drug Administration approvals for the facility. The sooner we can begin producing U.S.-made Mo-99, the sooner we can minimize our dependency on foreign imports to meet critical U.S. medical needs,” said Bigles.

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