May 09. 2012 6:00AM - Last modified: May 09. 2012 6:51AM

JANESVILLE - $20.6 million Morgridge Institute agreement will aid SHINE project

The Morgridge Institute for Research on the UW-Madison campus has signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy that will boost a project with SHINE Medical Technologies to manufacture a scarce radioisotope used in common medical screening tests.

The $20.6 million cooperative agreement will pay for the next phase of research to make molybdenum-99. When molybdenum-99 decays, it produces technetium-99m, used in imaging procedures performed on 55,000 patients a day to diagnose heart disease and cancer and to study brain and kidney function.

"This funding will dramatically accelerate our efforts to establish a safer and more reliable supply of molybdenum-99," SHINE chief executive Greg Piefer said in a written statement. It will be made using a particle acceleration process, without the need for weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium, the key ingredient used by a handful of aging nuclear reactors that now make molybdenum-99.

SHINE, based in Monona, plans to build an $85 million plant in Janesville, scheduled to start production by 2015 and create at least 150 jobs.

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