Note: This story was updated at 8:45 a.m. Oct. 10.
A Florida newspaper reported on Wednesday that a medical isotope company will build a manufacturing facility in Oak Ridge, rather than relocating to a city in north Florida.
Coquí RadioPharmaceutical had planned to build a $250 million manufacturing facility in Alachua, which is near Gainesville, with 164 jobs paying an average of $75,000, the Gainesville Sun reported.
But the company announced Wednesday that it will instead build its facility in Oak Ridge, lured by a gift of 170 acres from the U.S. Department of Energy and the opportunity to work with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a DOE lab, the newspaper said.
On Saturday, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said he is aware of the company, and it is working with the state of Tennessee.
“They’re still working out the details,” Watson said. But, “it’s a positive movement in terms of them coming to Tennessee.”
Watson said Coquí RadioPharmaceutical could locate in Heritage Center, which is also known as East Tennessee Technology Park (the former K-25 site) in west Oak Ridge.
Watson said the facility could be a a little larger in terms of jobs and investment than what was reported in the Gainesville newspaper.
Oak Ridge officials said they don’t have a lot of details yet. Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch said he is also aware of the report in the Gainesville Sun last week.
“I’m real excited about it,” Gooch said Saturday. “It’s another good day for Oak Ridge. It continues the momentum.”
Coquí RadioPharmaceutical describes itself as a company whose mission is to create a commercially scalable and reliable supply of medical diagnostic and therapeutic radioisotopes in the United States.
The Gainesville Sun reported that Kevin Tilbury, planner with Gresham, Smith and Partners, which has helped Coquí with site selection and design, said the relationship with the Department of Energy makes Coquí more attractive to investors.
Agencies that could be involved in the incentive package in Tennessee are the U.S. Department of Energy, the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee, state of Tennessee, Tennessee Valley Authority, the Roane Alliance, and City of Oak Ridge, according to the Gainesville Sun, which cited a letter from Coquí President and Chief Executive Officer Carmen Bigles.
The newspaper outlined incentives that had been offered in Florida, including 25 acres offered by the University of Florida Foundation and tax credits, grants, and various sales tax exemptions offered by the state, Alachua County, and the city of Alachua.
On its website, Coquí says there are only a small number of facilities around the world that have the capacity for the commercial production of radioisotopes.
“Yet the United States, the largest market for medical radioisotopes, has no domestic supply and in turn relies on imports from Europe and elsewhere,” the company says.
Coquí says radioisotopes are essential to nuclear medicine and are applied in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. They are used in a wide range of diagnostic and treatment applications including brain, heart, lung, liver, renal, oncologic, and muscle skeletal diseases.
Of all the medical radioisotopes, Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) is used for more than 80 percent of procedures, the company says.
“Lasting only 66 hours after production, Mo-99 cannot be stockpiled and presents unique distribution challenges when imported into the United States,” Coquí says. “In recent years, Mo-99 shortages deprived patients of lifesaving diagnostics and treatment.”
Oak Ridge Today has requested comment from Coquí RadioPharmaceutical and Gresham, Smith and Partners, and we will update this story as we learn more.
See the Gainesville Sun story here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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