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In 1998, a company co-founded by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) retiree Lane Bray, an internationally recognized expert in medical isotopes, came to PNNL for technical assistance. The company, IsoRay Medical, Inc., now produces Cesium-131 radiochemical brachytherapy "seeds" used in facilities across the country to treat prostate and other cancers. The Cesium-131 seed offers a significantly shorter half-life than the two other isotopes commonly used for brachytherapy, allowing faster delivery of therapeutic radiation to the prostate gland, reduced incidence of common brachytherapy side effects, and lower probability of cancer cell survival.
"IsoRay literally started in Lane Bray's basement, with about three employees," said Larry Greenwood, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) technical lead for the IsoRay project. In 1998, Bray, a PNNL retiree and internationally recognized expert in medical isotopes and Don Segna, a retired engineer, formerly with the U.S. Department of Energy, met with Greenwood to discuss technical issues related to the fledgling company.
This meeting led IsoRay to PNNL's Economic Development Office and access to PNNL expertise in the form of a Technical Assistance Program (TAP) project. Five additional TAP projects and seven years later, IsoRay was producing and marketing its Cs-131 seeds, which are now being used in 36 medical centers and clinics across the nation.
As a small start-up company, IsoRay did not have the physical or financial resources to conduct extensive testing in a radioactive environment. The company began by performing non-radioactive testing in a technology incubator facility before conducting the radioactive work at PNNL. In addition to providing a radiological lab and expertise, PNNL offered its regulatory experience. "We got our feet wet at PNNL, learned what kind of equipment we needed and how the regulatory process worked," said Bray, now chief scientist at IsoRay.
IsoRay developed all of the intellectual property and holds all of the patents for the separation and purification of Cs-131. They recently built their own radiological laboratory in Richland, Wash., where they are now producing the seeds.
- 2006 Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer