UW Cyclotron Research Group Joins the Department of Energy’s University Isotope Network

Posted on March 2023

The Cyclotron Research Group’s primary mission is to pursue novel methods of producing radioactive materials needed for medical diagnosis, disease treatment, and fundamental scientific applications. These raw materials are the foundation for research, and the group has served as a resource for researchers at UW-Madison and beyond for over four decades. 

However, many institutions and researchers do not have access to these necessary materials, which can restrict technology development and advancement in nuclear medicine. 

UW-Madison’s Cyclotron Research Group has joined the Department of Energy’s (DOE) University Isotope Network (UIN), a new effort to improve the accessibility of radionuclides for researchers across the country. 

The UIN’s mission is to expand access to the wealth of resources produced by the UW Cyclotron Research Group and other national partners. The National Isotope Development Center (NIDC) coordinates production and transportation of the materials between UIN members and users. 

“The University Isotope Network provides new ways for the Department of Energy to support our labs,” explains Jonathan Engle, PhD, who leads the Cyclotron Research Group. “It should increase access to these unique materials for researchers across the country.” 

The UW is the fourth university in the country to officially join the UIN. 

This new initiative is possible due to the hard work of Dr. Engle, the Cyclotron Group’s PI, as well as Todd E. Barnhart, a distinguished scientist, and Eduardo Aluicio-Sarduy, PhD, an assistant scientist. 

The group produces numerous radionuclides and radiotracers. Among the available production lines are bromine-76 (Br-76), bromine-77 (Br-77), manganese-52g (Mn-52g), and yttrium-86 (Y-86). Br-76, Mn-52g, and Y-86 are useful for positron emission tomography. In addition, Br-77 is a Meitner-Auger emitter with promise as a therapeutic radionuclide. Already, at UW-Madison, access to Y-86 has helped to stimulate research. Notably, it is essential for an NIH-funded P01 on immunomodulatory targeted radionuclide therapy led by Jamey Weichert, PhD and Zach Morris, MD, PhD, into emerging cancer therapies, and Mn-52g is the radiotracer used in a recently approved clinical trial led by Department of Radiology investigators Sandip Biswal, MD, Ali Pirasteh, MD and Jonathan Engle, PhD. 

“The UIN can democratize access to radionuclides that have half-lives long enough to ship,” says Dr. Engle. “We’re hoping that this catalyzes research that comes back to the people of Wisconsin in the form of better technologies but that also generally benefits the population served by healthcare, specifically nuclear medicine.”