We discussed previously the impact of high costs for preclinical systems on the global drug development research market. We saw that there is opportunity to improve the success rate achieved using existing methodologies, and that new technologies such as PET and MRI can significantly improve efficiency, mostly thanks to a fundamental benefit: detecting unpromising compounds early in the development process.
However compelling its use might be, preclinical PET and MRI equipment both come at a very high cost, which is prohibitive for most research institutes. To worsen the situation, micro-PET systems bring another important cost component on top of equipment costs, which is the radioisotopes needed for micro-PET systems.
Costs associated with PET system radioisotopes & requirements
Radioisotopes are the biological molecules injected into an organism in order to generate radiation, which is then detected and processed by the PET system. Radioisotopes are difficult to work with, for a number of reasons. Their creation is highly complex, their transport is highly regulated (which increases costs), and you need to act fast since they decay rapidly: radiation falls to half its value in under two hours. This may seem short, but we have to keep in mind that this is to be injected into a living organism (whether human or animal). Therefore, the selected radioisotope must have a relatively short half-life so as not to expose the subject to an unnecessary radiation burden.
For situations where conventional transportation methods would exceed the two hour half-life window, you could transport your radioisotopes by helicopter (which increases costs), or buy your own cyclotron to generate them on site (which of course increases costs significantly). The Siemens Eclipse™ RD cyclotron is an example of on such onsite cyclotron. As a side note, Nutaq is involved in the electronics within particle accelerators, which are a key component of radioisotope production.
Again for the cyclotron, costs don’t end at the equipment level. Highly qualified personnel, construction costs, packaging, and quality assurance are a few examples of additional costs to consider before purchase. Assuming a two million USD cost for the equipment itself, you can expect equivalent expenses for these additional cost factors, if not more.
For a detailed cost analysis, see the article “Activity-based costing evaluation of