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Major federal funding strengthens Canadian radiopharmaceutical research and development

04 May 2023

A team of researchers led by Dr. François Bénard (University of British Columbia) and Dr. Caterina Ramogida (SFU, joint at TRIUMF) has been awarded a $23-million New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) Transformation program grant to support research and development for next-generation radiopharmaceuticals. The research will leverage isotopes produced using TRIUMF cyclotrons, as well as radiochemistry laboratories at TRIUMF’s Institute for Advanced Medical Isotopes (IAMI).

The project team, which includes researchers from BC Cancer and several institutions from TRIUMF’s member university network, will focus initially on boosting production and processing capacity for actinium-225, dubbed the world’s “rarest drug”. They aim to continue boosting the supply of the isotope and expand its availability for much-needed clinical trials.   

As that work progresses, and as IAMI continues to come online, the team will also work towards the development of other radioisotopes critical for therapeutic purposes, produced using IAMI’s TR-24, as well as TRIUMF’s 520 MeV and TR-13 cyclotrons. 

image: a radiochemistry processing facility 

“Radiopharmaceutical design is intrinsically modular, which gives us the flexibility to customize each drug to a specific disease target. By considering the chemical properties of the isotope, we can design bifunctional chelating ligands that are optimised for each radioisotope and subsequently attach them to the disease targeting-molecule of our choice,” said Dr. Ramogida, assistant professor of chemistry at Simon Fraser University, joint with TRIUMF, and co-principal investigator on the program grant. “Using this adaptable approach, we have the potential to develop an arsenal of different drugs tailored for various types of cancer.” 

“Alpha-emitting isotopes like actinium-225 have tremendous potential to change how we treat cancer, and to significantly improve health outcomes for patients,” said Dr. Paul Schaffer, Director, TRIUMF Life Sciences Division. “At TRIUMF, we have unique advantages in both our world-leading isotope production facilities and our established network of collaborators within the radiopharmaceutical research and innovation ecosystem. TRIUMF is delighted to leverage its laboratory space and capabilities to ramp up and provide large quantities of rare isotopes like actinium-225, and to collaborate in the critical research taking place.” 

Congratulations to the project team!