Canada working to ensure a world supply of isotopes

James Scongack, Executive V-P, Corporate Affairs & Operational Service

2020 can be the year that Canada takes major leaps forward to ensure the world has a reliable supply of isotopes for the next decade and beyond that patients, families and physicians are counting on to fight cancer and other medical conditions.

The groundwork that is underway all across Canada from universities, hospitals, companies, charities, nuclear power operators and the cyclotron community have positioned Canada to play the role we always have – as a leader.

I believe the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council (CNIC), which grew to over 50 respected members from across the Country in 2019 – and of which Bruce Power is a founding partner – will play a role working alongside these organizations and both provincial and federal levels of government and also expand the partners in this mission.

A report released by the CNIC in September highlighted the need for strong Canadian leadership to ensure a domestic and international supply of medical isotopes. This presents a major challenge – and opportunity – for Canadian leadership in the training, research, development, deployment and export of medical isotopes for the global market. The report makes it clear that Canada must enable investment in its isotope infrastructure and ensure the building blocks are in place for this sector to remain a global leader. Such investments would exhibit a commitment to Canada’s role as a leader in nuclear medicine, and dramatically bolster the country’s capacity to innovate while delivering substantial economic and societal benefits to both Canadians and patients around the globe.

Advancements in health technology in emerging economies have led to increasing demand for oncology treatments. In addition, demand is being driven by improved reimbursement scenarios surrounding insurance coverage, well-established health-care facilities, a rise in the geriatric population, rising awareness among people undergoing nuclear medicine treatments and increased diagnosis options.

In addition to this being the right thing for Canada to lead, it also presents a major economic opportunity for Canada. The size of the global isotope market was estimated to be $9.6 billion (US) and is projected to grow to over $17.1 billion (US) by 2023. The report also provides valuable current data about the Canadian isotope sector and the impact of its supply chain on Canada’s economy in terms of jobs and economic growth. As also outlined in the report, two-thirds (66 per cent) of Canadians are concerned about ceding their leadership position in isotope production and research and development and a further 63 per cent of Canadians support the development of a national strategy for isotopes to ensure Canada remains at the forefront of this sector.

People suffering from these horrible illnesses are counting on Canada. Now more than ever it’s time for Canada to lead. That’s what the work of the CNIC and the report were all about – when it comes to meeting some of the world’s greatest health challenges, all eyes are on Canada. We need to step up and provide the leadership expected of us from the rest of the world.