“LARAMED – LAboratory of RADionuclides for MEDicine” is a Premium project funded by MIUR (Italian Ministry of Research) in 2012, to which had followed the funding of the Premium project “TERABIO” in 2016.
The aim of LARAMED is the realization of the facility at LNL devoted to the production of medical radionuclides and radiopharmaceuticals, by using the proton beam provided by the SPES cyclotron. As shown in Figure 1, the production of radionuclides and radiopharmaceuticals is an interdisciplinary process that includes nuclear physics, material science, mechanical engineering, radiochemistry, radiopharmacy up to studies in biology and medicine, that are carried out in collaboration with other research Institutions.
Figure 1. Outline of the radiopharmaceuticals’ production phases, from the nuclear physics studies to the realization of a dedicated target, its irradiation with the proton beam delivered by the cyclotron, the target radiochemical processing for extraction and purification of the desired radionuclide, the quality controls of the final product and the radiolabelling of the radiopharmaceutical.
Currently the LARAMED facility is under completion in the SPES building at LNL. The LARAMED facility includes (Figure 2):
- Underground floor:
- A bunker (A9c) dedicated to nuclear physics measurements, i.e. to the nuclear cross sections for the production of innovative radionuclides; those measurements are based on the use of a low-current proton beam (about 100 nA) and thin targets (about 1-20 µm thick).
- A bunker (RI#3) dedicated to the radionuclides’ production for preclinical and clinical research; those studies require the use of intense proton-beams (of the orders of 50-500 µA) and thick targets (100 µm – 1 mm).
- Second floor:
- A laboratory dedicated to the radiochemical processing of irradiated targets, to γ-spectrometry measurements, to quality controls and the labelling of radiopharmaceuticals (RILAB Radiochemistry).
- A laboratory devoted to target manufacturing by using several techniques (HIVIPP, SPS, magnetron sputtering, etc.) and to the cold-chemical processing of materials, i.e. by using non-radioactive products (RILAB Target).
Figure 2. The image shows the planimetry of the LARAMED facility in the SPES building: the underground level (left) with the LARAMED bunkers, RI#3 and A9c, highlighted in yellow; the second floor (right) with the RILAB areas devoted to radiochemistry and targetry.
LARAMED is also a “box” of scientific projects, funded by the INFN (CSN) and other Institutions, focused on specific topics. In the following we cite:
- APOTEMA and TECHN-OSP (CSN5 2012/2014, 2015/2017), on 99mTc direct production by using medical cyclotrons. The main results were the measurements of the 100Mo(p,2n)99mTc reaction, the manufacturing of optimized thick targets for 99mTc production, the development of an automated module for the separation and purification 99Mo/99mTc, radiolabelling of extensively used radiopharmaceuticals, imaging studies with phantoms and in vivo.
- COME (CSN3 2016), on 67Cu production by using isotopically enriched 70Zn targets. This project led to the first measurement of the 70Zn(p,x)67Cu,64Cu nuclear reactions in the energy range 45-70 MeV. Based on these results and considering a 70 MeV proton cyclotron, it was possible to patent the idea of a multi-layer target that maximizes the 67Cu production and minimizes the 64Cu co-production (INFN international patent no. WO2019/220224 A1).
- PASTA (CSN5 2017/2018), on the accelerator-based production of 47Sc. Several nuclear reactions were studied, by using natV and isotopically enriched 48Ti targets. The 48Ti samples were manufactured with the HIVIPP technique developed in the E_PLATE project.
- E_PLATE (CSN5 2018/2019), on the High Energy Vibrational Powder Plating (HIVIPP) technique for the manufacturing of thin and homogeneous targets, suitable for nuclear physics experiments that require the use of expensive isotopically enriched materials.
- METRICS (CSN5 2018/2021), on the cyclotron-based production of positron emitters manganese isotopes (51Mn e 52Mn),suitable for PET imaging (Positron Emitted Tomography), to be paired with stable manganese (45Mn) that is currently used as contrast agent in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The achievement of a paramagnetic radiopharmaceutical would allow a real overlapping in the information obtained by PET/MRI multi-modal imaging.
- REMIX (CSN5 2021/2023), on 47Sc production with proton beams by using enriched 49Ti and 50Ti targets (to compare the new results with the data obtained within the PASTA project) and on Terbium-isotopes production useful in nuclear medicine. Additional information can be found here.
- INTEFF_TOTEM (POC MISE 2021/2022), on the enhancement of the INFN international patent (Patent no. WO2019/053570) focused on targets, obtained with the magnetron sputtering technique, for medical radionuclides production.