Canadian Isotopes Innovation: The Cleanest Way for Making Isotopes 

Isotopes are a critical part of testing in our healthcare system. Used in hospitals for many of diagnostic tests, isotopes are critical for procedures like cardiac stress tests and bone scans to follow up on cancer. After the two reactors that provided over half of the isotopes to the world shut-down creating an isotope crisis ten years ago, the Canadian government asked researchers to provide solutions to ensuring a steady flow of isotopes to the healthcare system.

Doug Ullrich and Mark de Jong were a part of a team that responded to the call. The Canadian Light Source and National Research Council submitted a proposal to create the isotopes, and to create a process to make the isotopes that is much cleaner than the traditional methods.

Mark de Jong explains their advantage, “The current way of making isotopes is with nuclear fission. Only five per cent of the process produces the materials that are needed, and the rest is waste. Additionally, you have to create them inside a reactor, so there is a lot more nuclear waste.”

When the funding was granted, Canadian Isotopes Innovations was founded to make the venture commercially viable.  The team of five have developed a process for creating isotopes without using uranium or a nuclear reactor. They are in the thick of the approval process in two highly regulated areas of pharmaceuticals and nuclear industries, but they hope to complete that process and start selling isotopes to Canada and the United States within three years.

Saskatoon is an ideal place to base this innovation, as the team can do the development and health regulatory work all in one location. The facilities at the University of Saskatchewan, Canadian Light Source, Fedoruk Centre, and the clinical research at the Royal University Hospital all work together to make the development process move quickly.

“Our infrastructure is ideal for development work,” shares de Jong.  “We are also building up expertise on top of all of that.” As the team moves towards approval and commercialization, the Canadian healthcare system and those that care about a cleaner environment can all breathe a sigh of relief.


Founders: Doug Ullrich, Mark de Jong

Incorporation: 2015

Number of employees: Five