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University of Queensland’s Hyper-Accurate Cancer Treatment Tech

Radiopharmaceuticals are an emerging medical technology that delivers radiation therapy directly to cancer cells while sparing the rest of the body from the harsh effects of cancer treatment. Now, the University of Queensland is paving the way in the innovation and production of new radiation therapy drugs.

The newly created Advanced Manufacture of Targeted Radiopharmaceuticals (AMTAR) hub, established from an AU$5 million Australian Research Council grant and an AU$10 million from partners, will be a one-stop-shop for experts and industry to come together and streamline emerging radiopharmaceutical technologies.

Professor Kris Thurecht from UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology and Centre for Advanced Imaging will lead the hub, alongside crucial pharma industry partners and some of the world’s best scientific minds.

In an interview, the professor stated that radiopharmaceuticals are a group of drugs that deliver radiation therapy directly and specifically to cancer cells. More specifically, they are isotopes bound to biological molecules that can target specific organs, tissues or cells. Focusing on very specific areas enables the reduction of the collateral damage – or side effects – that the human body usually experiences during radiation therapy like hair loss, skin changes, diarrhoea and loss of taste.

Professor Thurecht stated that while the history of radiopharmaceuticals dates to the 1920s, they are still considered an emerging branch of medical technology. As scientists and researchers develop a better understanding of the technology, they are being used more frequently, with high accuracy and sensitivity, in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases like cancer. Radiopharmaceuticals will be an integral part of modern healthcare. There are several agents on the market and many more in development. It is expected that their use will increase over the next 10 to 15 years.

With regards to the hub, the professor noted that in July 2022, an AU$5 million Australian Research Council grant was secured, allowing for the Hub for Advanced Manufacture of Targeted Radiopharmaceuticals (AMTAR) to be established at UQ. Essentially, the hub will use the capabilities and infrastructure on hand at UQ and the University of Sydney to gather some of the world’s best scientific minds and major pharma industry players.

While researchers are the hub and will not be expressly treating patients or addressing medical outcomes, they will be developing knowledge and technology platforms within the radiopharmaceutical manufacturing pipeline. The hub’s a one-stop shop that will help enhance Australia’s reputation in the field of radiopharmaceuticals, and importantly, open the region up to lucrative commercial opportunities.

Overall, AMTAR’s vision is to develop new technologies and establish a platform for smart design, manufacture and quality assurance of targeted radiopharmaceuticals. This will be done via collaborative research that improves the cost-effectiveness of production while ensuring there’s a process in place to manufacture new products here in Australia.

Nuclear medicine is increasingly being used in diagnostic imaging and radiotherapy. This has carved the way for the growth of the radiopharmaceutical market. Nuclear medicine assists in diagnosing the organs of any kind of pathological condition, especially cancer.

Recent research found that the radiopharmaceuticals market is expected to undergo a CAGR of 10.40% during the forecast period. This indicates that the market value, which was US$4.80 billion in 2021, would grow to US$11.69 billion by 2029.

“Diagnostic Applications” dominate the application segment of the radiopharmaceuticals market as a result of the rising incidences of medical ailments such as diabetes that are responsible for making the lower part of the body symptomatic and vulnerable.

The increasing focus on improving the condition of healthcare facilities and improving the overall healthcare infrastructure is a key driver of this market’s growth. A growing number of partnerships and strategic collaborations between the public and private players pertaining to funding and application of new and improved technology is further creating lucrative market opportunities.

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