Digital transformation for isotope production

Published April 7 2021
Andrew Thiele, Director (Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council)
Andrew Thiele
Director (Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council)
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For most readers, an isotope may seem a complex and even intimidating concept. However, these elements are used for very specific purposes in several critical areas that include diagnosing and treating certain diseases, such as cancer. In an interview conducted with Andrew Thiele, Director–Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council, he explains how digital transformation is crucial to Canada’s isotope production industry.

Tiny particles with huge potential

Simply put, isotopes are atoms that have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. This imbalance leads to the emission of radiation with many applications, ranging from energy production, to industrial product testing, to healthcare research. The potential uses for isotopes seem virtually endless in a market worth approximately $17.6 billion.

Canada has been at the forefront of medical and radiopharmaceutical isotope research, development and production for more than 60 years. Founded in 2018, the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council (CNIC) is dedicated to ensuring that Canada remains a leader in this field. The organization is also committed to ensuring the stability of the isotope supply chain and that government policies on nuclear materials reflect established science and risk factors.

Several development opportunities

A recent CNIC report highlights some of the opportunities and challenges in the industry and in the isotope supply chain, such as a lack of alternative suppliers in case of supply chain disruptions and aging infrastructure. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada became the world’s sole producer of Iodine-125, an isotope used in nuclear medicine imaging and radiation therapy, after China had to shut down production.

Logistics and stable, reliable supply remain major issues hampering the isotope industry. The CNIC continues to seek sustainable solutions to manage air transportation and modernize production infrastructure. To address some of these challenges, companies are turning to automation and systems management solution providers to ensure business continuity and drive industry development.

Collaboration with a focus on modernization

In a growth environment, technology providers like Alithya help companies focus on digital transformation and automation to modernize the isotope industry. This transition increases process efficiency and safety, in addition to minimizing human error, which in turn increases industry flexibility. With this in mind, Alithya and the CNIC have recently formed a partnership to push the boundaries of research and develop new applications for isotopes.

With experience working on projects within the Canadian nuclear isotope industry, providing engineering, design, testing, and simulation services, Alithya is a partner of choice for organizations wishing to help maintain and modernize the isotope supply chain. Partnerships such as the one between Alithya and the CNIC show policy makers and decision makers the importance of investing in such a critical sector for modern medicine.

“Alithya’s vision is to contribute to the development of the medical isotope sector to provide better treatment solutions for cancer patients,” said George Halim, Director, Engagement Lead at Alithya.

“This perspective is consistent with our company’s core values. Our strategy is to expand our footprint in the medical isotope sector and become a supplier of choice for control systems and software applications.

Our partnership with the CNIC will allow us to interact with key sector players through quarterly meetings with the organization and participation in their events starting in 2021. This will help us align our strategy with that of this burgeoning industry, which in turn will enable us to speak out and share our vision. Alithya is excited about this partnership and look forward to working on new projects with the CNIC.”