Medical isotope innovators SHINE Medical choose TopDutch for European expansion

The American company SHINE is establishing its European branch in the municipality of Veendam. SHINE announced this in a joint press conference with officials from the municipality. SHINE makes medical isotopes, basic substances that are needed for cancer research and treatment, among other things. Using revolutionary technology, SHINE makes isotopes that do not require the use of a nuclear reactor. This makes the production process safer, cleaner, and more reliable. SHINE’s European facility will be built in the municipality of Veendam, starting in 2023. The logistical possibilities were the deciding factor; Veendam emerged as the best choice after more than 50 possible locations in various European countries were examined. SHINE’s arrival in Veendam will provide direct employment for approximately 200 people.

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Cancers and cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death worldwide. Four out of five seriously ill patients will encounter radioactive substances in their examination and treatment process. This makes it possible to detect cancers and cardiovascular diseases at an early stage. SHINE will make the raw materials for this: the medical isotopes. Those are small quantities of radioactive substances with a medical application. Further development of available techniques makes it increasingly possible to detect and counteract cancer cells and metastases using medical isotopes. Until now, these medical isotopes have been produced around the world mainly by means of nuclear reactors. SHINE produces medical isotopes with its accelerator technology, which makes the production process much safer, much cleaner, much more reliable, and much more cost effective than the existing production technology involving nuclear reactors.

Harrie Buurlage, Director of SHINE Europe: 'The presence of SHINE in Veendam and the development of these medical isotopes here will enable European patients to be examined and treated with medical isotopes in an increasingly reliable and cost-effective manner. This will significantly improve the quality of life of millions of European patients each year.'

Compact and safe with no reactor

The SHINE particle accelerator in their US production facility

SHINE will build a production facility to produce medical isotopes in the municipality of Veendam. In that facility, a small amount of uranium will be split in a particle accelerator. The material released in that process will be used for cancer research and treatment. SHINE’s alternative technology ensures that no nuclear reactor is required for this process. Instead, SHINE uses the accelerator to make particles that could also be made by a reactor.

The production facility in the municipality of Veendam will be compact, with a surface area equal to half a soccer field. Inside the factory, eight accelerators will be placed in a row in a chamber underground. This is where the medical isotopes will be made.

‘This is done in a very safe way in a closed system,’ Harrie Buurlage explains. ‘We already have a U.S. production facility in Janesville, Wisconsin, and will apply that expertise here. The new SHINE technology requires 100 times less uranium fission, the facility is much safer than research reactors, and it produces much less waste. The small amount of radioactive waste that remains will be removed and stored according to the strict rules that also apply in the Netherlands. This is already happening now at hospitals here in the region.’

The Netherlands: logistically advantageous and innovative

The choice to build a European facility in the Netherlands stems from the location and the innovative strength of our country. The Netherlands is in a logistically favorable position when it comes to the supply of medical isotopes to European countries. In addition, the Netherlands has considerable experience with the production of medical isotopes by uranium fission. This is already done in Petten according to clear regulations and under strict supervision by the Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ANVS). Waste disposal is also regulated in the Netherlands in a very safe manner by the Central Organization for Radioactive Waste (COVRA).

The arrival of SHINE confirms the position of the Netherlands as a world leader in the field of medical isotopes.

Dina Boonstra, Director of the NOM

In addition, the Netherlands holds a leading position when it comes to research into the application of radiotherapy. SHINE will compete on a level playing field with research reactors across Europe and around the world. SHINE will also draw on the knowledge in the region, from the University of Groningen and Hanze University of Applied Sciences, and on the expertise at the KVI Center for Advanced Radiation Technology in Groningen.

200 new jobs

Groningen Airport Eelde offers great opportunities for international players in the region. Photo: Kas van Zonneveld

SHINE will build its facility adjacent to Dallen II near Wildervank. Infrastructure played a role in the choice of the municipality of Veendam. A good road network is important for the supply and transport of SHINE products, and Veendam offers one leading to both Groningen/Randstad and Germany. Veendam also has a convenient connection to a nearby airport (Groningen Airport Eelde). Furthermore, Veendam plays a leading role in the region, giving it a good scale of facilities. This applies to both the availability of labor and suppliers.

SHINE’s arrival in Veendam will provide direct employment for approximately 200 people. These include jobs for those with vocational, higher professional and university levels of education. There will also be work for suppliers. During the construction of the facility, which will cost several hundred million euros, there will also be a lot of additional temporary employment. Local partners will be used in this process. The facility will be built between 2023 and 2025.

TopDutch mentality

The mentality of the region was also an important aspect in its selection. Harrie Buurlage: ‘Veendam is comparable to the American city of Janesville, and Groningen as a province is similar to the state of Wisconsin. Like Groningen, this American region has a down-to-earth, ‘doers’ mentality with the necessary ambition. The welcoming attitude of both the province of Groningen and the municipality of Veendam also contributed to our choice of Veendam. Their open attitude made us feel welcome from the very beginning. Of course, the fact that I was born and raised in Groningen also played a part. I know the region and the mentality here. That’s why we are very proud to be able to establish our facility in Veendam.’

SHINE Medical are being helped in their expansion process by the NOM, the TopDutch Investment and Development Agency. Gerard Lenstra, Project Manager Life Sciences & Health at the NOM says ‘We’re already getting started with talks of collaboration in the field of technology development. Logically, this means cooperating with the University of Groningen and the University Medical Center Groningen, but we’re also looking forward to intense development and cooperation with other universities and business at home and abroad.’ Dina Boonstra, Director of the NOM adds: ‘The arrival of SHINE confirms the position of the Netherlands as a world leader in the field of medical isotopes. This also evidences the positioning of the Northern Netherlands as a region where innovative, clean and socially relevant companies can find a home.'