NSERC Brockhouse Canada Prize Honours Medical Isotope Team CycloMed99

February 17, 2015 – TRIUMF

(Vancouver, BC) – For their outstanding teamwork in realizing a solution for safe and
reliable isotope production for hospitals in Canada, interdisciplinary research team
CycloMed99 will be receiving a prestigious national award at a ceremony in Ottawa
today. The Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, will present the
NSERC Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and
Engineering to the team in recognition of their seamless teamwork and successes.
The recipients of the Brockhouse Canada Prize include Drs. Paul Schaffer (TRIUMF),
François Bénard (The University of British Columbia), Anna Celler (The University of
British Columbia), Michael Kovacs (Western University), Thomas J. Ruth (TRIUMF),
and John Valliant (McMaster University). Full affiliations listed on page two.
“My colleagues and I are proud to accept this award that so accurately reflects the spirit
of collaboration shown by all over the past five years,” said Dr. Paul Schaffer, head of
nuclear medicine at TRIUMF. “We stand on the shoulders of a tremendous team of
experts from each of our home institutions.”
Drawing from expertise in physics, chemistry, and nuclear medicine, the team set out five
years ago to develop a reliable, alternative means of production for a key medical isotope
in order to eliminate the threat of a supply shortage – a catastrophic healthcare crisis for
patients around the world. Technetium-99m (Tc-99m) is the world standard for medical
imaging to diagnose cancer and heart disease. Every day, 5,000 medical procedures in
Canada and 70,000 daily worldwide depend on this isotope. With funding support from
NSERC, CIHR and Natural Resources Canada, the team developed technology that uses
medical cyclotrons already installed and operational in major hospitals across Canada to
produce enough Tc-99m on a daily basis.
“Our government is proud of TRIUMF’s accomplishment in the development of new
ways of increasing medical isotope supply,” said Honorable Greg Rickford, Canada’s
Minister of Natural Resources. “This award is about collaboration, and the TRIUMF-led
project is an excellent example of how Canadian researchers from many disciplines work
together to solve important challenges.”
This innovation is safer and more environmentally friendly than current technology
because it eliminates the need for highly enriched uranium, also avoiding the generation
of highly radioactive waste. Canada’s healthcare system would save money by producing
isotopes locally under a full-cost recovery model.
The project resulted in over a dozen scientific publications, several provisional patents
and a training opportunity for more than 175 individuals.
Now, the research team is focused on working with the world’s major cyclotron
manufacturers to add factory-supported Tc-99m production capability to their existing
product lines so the technology will become standard in future machines.
CycloMed99 is also working with a Canadian start-up company to license, transfer and
sell this technology around the world. This will allow hospitals and companies with
cyclotrons to retrofit their existing infrastructure with a Made in Canada solution to
produce this valuable material.
Congratulations to the CycloMed99 team, recipients of the Brockhouse Canada Prize:
• Dr. Paul Schaffer, a chemist by training and Division Head, Nuclear Medicine at
TRIUMF; Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Chemistry at Simon Fraser University; and
Professor, Dept. of Radiology at the University of British Columbia (UBC);
• Dr. François Bénard, a clinician by training and BC Leadership Chair in
Functional Cancer Imaging at the BC Cancer Agency; and Professor, Dept. of
Radiology at UBC;
• Dr. Anna Celler, a medical physicist by training and Professor, Dept. of
Radiology at UBC;
• Dr. Michael Kovacs, a chemist by training; PET Radiochemistry Facility Imaging
Scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute; Associate Professor at Western
• Dr. Thomas J. Ruth, a nuclear chemist by training and researcher emeritus at
TRIUMF; and Professor emeritus at UBC, and;
• Dr. John Valliant, a chemist by training and Scientific Director and CEO of the
Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization; and Professor at
McMaster University.
–With content from NSERC.
Media Contacts
Melissa Baluk 604.222.7692
Communications Coordinator, TRIUMF mbaluk@triumf.ca
Martin Leroux 613.943.7618
Media and Public Affairs Officer, NSERC Martin.Leroux@nserc-crsng.gc.ca
About TRIUMF – TRIUMF is Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear
physics. Together with its partner AAPS, Inc., TRIUMF also seeks to commercialize its
technologies for the benefit of all Canadians. Located on the south campus of UBC,
TRIUMF receives operating support from the Government of Canada through a
contribution agreement via National Research Council Canada; the Government of
British Columbia provides capital for new buildings. TRIUMF is owned and operated as
a joint venture by a consortium of the following Canadian universities: University of
Alberta, University of British Columbia, University of Calgary, Carleton University,
University of Guelph, University of Manitoba, McGill University, McMaster University,
Université de Montréal, University of Northern British Columbia, Queen’s University,
University of Regina, Saint Mary’s University, Simon Fraser University, University of
Toronto, University of Victoria, Western University, University of Winnipeg, and York
University. Visit us at www.triumf.ca and tweet us @TRIUMFLab.