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Sunday, 15 May 2016 10:52

Niowave raises $5 million to expand production of medical imaging material

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LANSING — A mid-Michigan particle accelerator has taken the next step in an ambitious expansion plan that would position the company to capitalize on the multi-billion dollar market for medical isotopes.

Niowave Inc. of Lansing raised $5 million as of April 28, according to filings with federal securities regulators. Fourteen investors participated in the fundraising to date, in which the company could raise up to $10 million at a minimum investment of $100,000, according to the filings. 

Sources close to Niowave told MiBiz that the investment is part of the company’s efforts to expand production of a material used in medical imaging technology.

“There’s not a major supplier of those isotopes in the U.S.,” said Steve Willobee, chief operating officer at the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), who has worked closely with the company. “If you look at what those isotopes can be used for in the medical processes for therapies and identifying problems in the human body, it really opens up a huge market for a U.S. company to capitalize on that multi-billion dollar industry.”

The material, molybdenum 99, is used to produce technetium 99m, a radioisotope used in the majority of medical imaging technology that’s deployed to track diseases and provide diagnostics on the brain, heart, liver and other organs. 

The world radiopharmaceutical market is projected to reach $6 billion by 2020, according to a report by San Jose, Calif.-based Global Industry Analysts Inc. 

While most of molybdenum production is currently done near large nuclear power plants, Niowave’s technology creates the isotope with its superconducting electron linear accelerator, which takes up a much smaller physical footprint and uses less uranium, Willobee said. 

Executives at Niowave did not respond to requests for comment from MiBiz as this story went to press. 

Niowave joins several other Michigan firms working in the particle accelerator space, including Ionetix Corp., a San Francisco-based manufacturer of superconducting cyclotrons that maintains a facility in Delhi Charter Township south of Lansing. 

In addition, Michigan State University also operates its National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) in East Lansing and is in the middle of a $730 million construction project to build its new Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB).

The activity surrounding nuclear physics and particle accelerators in Lansing has led LEAP to launch its Accelerating Capital program, which seeks to attract similar businesses and research centers to the Lansing area, Willobee said.  

The program received a $70,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) last year to help develop and market it to prospective companies.

“We’re pushing and working to hit the right events, be in front of the right companies and to really position ourselves to attract companies,” Willobee said. “It’s one of those things that the people in the space are definitely aware of what’s occurring in Lansing. (But) the average citizen isn’t aware (and) they don’t know the opportunity on the horizon for this.” 

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