ITHEMBA LABORATORY (ITHEMBA LABS) LAUNCHES SOUTH AFRICAN ISOTOPE FACILITY (SAIF) with the procurement of a CYCLONE 70 CYCLOTRON AND ASSOCIATED BEAM LINES FROM ION BEAM APPLICATIONS S.A. (IBA)
ITHEMBA LABS is a multidisciplinary research facility, based on the development, operation and use of particle accelerators and related research equipment. It is South Africa’s largest basic science enterprise probing the fundamental structure and origins of matter, advancing our understanding of condensed matter and enhancing our impact on societal needs such as medicine and the environment. Internationally recognized for its leadership in advancing isotopes for science and medicine, it serves as an inspiration, a career path, and a resource for learning and sharing in schools and among students. In business circles, iThemba LABS is recognized for its advanced accelerator technologies and production of medical isotopes. IBA based in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, is the world leader in manufacturing of cyclotrons and provision of solutions for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer through the application of radiopharmaceutical products and proton therapy.
The SAIF strategy of ITHEMBA LABS has been approved by the NRF BOARD as an infrastructure renewal project focused on the increase use of the existing cyclotron at iThemba LABS. The South African government supported the laboratory with the acquisition of the a new 70 MEV CYCLOTRON to increase the production of Radio- isotopes in view of a growing local and international market and to create a financially sustainable research enterprise.
The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the National Treasury (NT) of South African Republic declared the benefit to South Africa Science and Society through the investment in the 70 MEV CYCLOTRON, which will be realized through:
Increase in beam time availability for research (capacity will increase by a factor of three);
· Development of new research fields and applications including:
⦁ Research into new and innovative solutions for cancer treatment and early diagnostics;
⦁ Fundamental research into sub-atomic physics to obtain an understanding of the astrophysical origin of the elements;
⦁ Radiation hardness testing for the space sciences;
⦁ Research into the development of nano-materials; and
⦁ Increase of the number of post- graduates supervised and supported by the facility.
· Excellent opportunity for young South Africans to acquire technical skills in Accelerator Based Sciences and Technologies;
· Increased radioisotope production (sales) by five-fold and revenue;
· Positive impact of South African Current Account through significant increase in export revenue.
Dr. Molapo Qhobela, Chief Executive officer of the NRF commented:
“ITHEMBA LABS, with the launch of SAIF and acquisition of the CYCLONE® 70, has changed the landscape of Nuclear Sciences (subatomic research and isotope production) forever in South Africa. The selection of IBA, a leading company in Cyclotron technology and unique know-how in developing high energy 70 MeV cyclotrons, as the successful bidder marks the realisation of the official launch of SAIF PHASE 1.” This 70 MeV Cyclotron will be dedicated to the production of new generation medical isotopes used mainly in the diagnosis of critical illnesses.
Dr. Azaiez, Managing Director of ITHEMBA LABS, added: “By launching SAIF, the ambition of iThemba LABS and NRF is not only to consolidate South Africa’s position as one of the very few main players in the world of producing and supplying the medical sector with radio-isotopes, but also to establish a world class research facility competing at the international scene in studying the heart of matter and the fuel of stars in the laboratory with the LERIB (Low Energy Radioactive Ion Beams) project”.
The SAIF PHASE 1, which consists of the Radio-Isotope Facility (based on the 70 MEV CYCLOTRON) and the LERIB facility, is planned to be completed in 2022 and to coincide with the hosting in Cape Town of the INPC (International Nuclear Physics Conference) which is the most prestigious conference in the physics domain.