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Investment grows in radiopharma manufacturing

Spending on new facilities spans biotech companies and contract service firms

by Aayushi Pratap
June 14, 2024


A laboratory technician walks in a radiopharmaceutical manufacturing plant.
Credit: Point Biopharma
In Indianapolis, Point Biopharma operates what it says is one of the world's largest radiopharmaceutical facilities.

The rising interest in developing radiopharmaceuticals as cancer treatments is sparking increased investment in manufacturing these therapies.

This month, Orano Med inaugurated a laboratory in Brownsburg, Indiana, near Indianapolis, where it will produce α radiotherapies for oncology. The company put $20 million into the 2,800 m² site, which it says will be the world’s first for industrial-scale lead-212 radiopharmaceuticals.

“The development of radiopharmaceuticals has long been hampered by the difficulty of manufacturing and distributing on an industrial scale,” Orano says in a press statement, adding that the new facility is a major step toward filling that gap.

Another biotech firm, ITM Isotope Technologies Munich in Germany, raised $201 million in June to develop its radiopharmaceutical pathway and prepare to produce its lead candidate, ITM-11, which is in Phase 3 clinical trials for gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. The Singapore-owned investment firm Temasek led the funding round with participation from BlackRock Alternatives, Qatar Investment Authority, Nextech, Athos, and Carbyne Equity Partners.

Unlike traditional radiation therapy, where a patient is exposed to radioactive emissions from the outside, radiopharmaceuticals deliver radiation therapy specifically to cancer cells inside the body.

While therapies sold by radiotherapy segment leader Novartis are based on β-particle-emitting isotopes, Orano’s lead-212 is an α-emitting isotope. ITM will use the new funds to increase its in-house manufacturing of β-emitting lutetium-based drugs and also plans to venture into making α-emitting actinium-based therapies.

“The activity in the radiopharma space has increased dramatically, with literally billions of dollars invested,” says Charles Conroy, CEO of Nucleus RadioPharma, a Minnesota–based radiopharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO). In 2023, his company raised $56 million in series A funding, followed by a series A extension round that brought in AstraZeneca as a new investor.

While Orano and ITM have invested in in-house production facilities, other up-and-coming biotech companies are opting for CDMOs, spurring investment among those firms as well, says Alexandra Ramsey, an equity research associate at the investment firm William Blair. “Production facilities require a lot of investment and safety considerations, and the sites must be certified.”

Meanwhile, top pharmaceutical companies have turned to acquisitions or deals with smaller biotech firms to participate in the field.

For instance, earlier this year, Eli Lilly and Company tapped Boston-based Aktis Oncology to develop radiopharmaceuticals to treat solid tumors. Lilly said it would pay Aktis $60 million up front and up to $1.1 billion in milestones. Last year, Lilly acquired Point Biopharma, which has a range of clinical- and preclinical-stage radioligands for cancer treatment.

Novartis announced earlier this year that it plans to buy radiopharmaceutical-focused Mariana Oncology for $1 billion.

Andy Hsieh, a biotechnology analyst at William Blair, says investment in the space will only increase in the coming years as companies seek to include a diverse set of isotopes in their product rosters.


This story was updated on June 17, 2024, to correctly describe Nucleus RadioPharma's series A funding extension. AstraZeneca was the sole investor, not one of the investors. Also, Nucleus is based in Minnesota, not North Carolina.


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