Shine Medical Technologies to Move to Janesville Later This Year

Shine Medical Technologies has for years planned to build a manufacturing facility in Janesville, WI, where it would produce a crucial medical isotope. Now the company says it will move its headquarters to that city later this year, as it prepares to make the plant a reality.

Shine is currently based in Monona, WI, about 40 miles northwest of Janesville.

In February, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission authorized the issuance of a construction permit to Shine for the Janesville plant. At that time, Katrina Pitas, Shine’s vice president of business development, shared with Xconomy the projected schedule for erecting and opening the 57,000-square-foot facility: break ground in 2017, produce test batches of isotopes there the following year, and go into full commercial production by 2019. The press release Shine put out on Wednesday announcing its plan to relocate to Janesville did not mention any changes to that timeline.

Shine’s plans for the Janesville plant revolve around producing molybdenum-99, which can be used to make technetium-99m, the most widely used radioisotope in medical diagnostic imaging. In the U.S., molybdenum-99 is used in about 20 million procedures each year, according to a 2015 report from World Nuclear News. The isotope has not been produced domestically since 1989, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said. Shine and other companies aim to change that because a potential shortage looms in 2018, when a key Canadian producer of the isotope is scheduled to shut down.

Wednesday’s announcement from Shine did not come as a major surprise, at least to those who have been tracking the company’s recent progress. When I first wrote about the race to resume domestic production of molybdenum-99 last year, Greg Piefer, the company’s founder and CEO, told me that “it’s in Shine’s best interests to get to Janesville sooner rather than later,” even if the manufacturing facility had not yet been constructed.

Shine says that all of its employees—25 as of February, though that figure is expected to increase to 60 by 2017—will work from Janesville following the relocation. The company estimates that once completed, its manufacturing center will employ 150.

The new Shine headquarters will be in downtown Janesville, about six miles north of the planned production facility. The company decided to build there in 2012.

Janesville, which as of 2010 was Wisconsin’s 10th-largest city, has historically had a strong manufacturing sector. However, it has fallen on harder times recently; the most high-profile blow came in 2008, when General Motors (NYSE: GM) closed an assembly plant in Janesville where the company had been producing automobiles since 1923.

“The relationship between [Janesville] and Shine has always been a top priority, and now it’ll be home,” Piefer says, in a prepared statement. “We’re thrilled to be contributors [to] the revitalization of the downtown riverfront area.”

Janesville is also known for being the hometown of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who attended an event there in March that celebrated the issuance of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission construction permit to Shine.

The company’s move will mean parting ways with Phoenix Nuclear Labs, which developed the neutron-generating accelerator technology Shine plans to use to produce molybdenum-99. Piefer also founded Phoenix, in 2005, and the two companies have operated out of a shared facility in Monona. Phoenix could itself be on the move in the coming years, though it has said it expects to remain in the Madison, WI, area.

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