Formed just six years ago, South West Exposures (SWE) is a company specializing in the design and fabrication of disruptive shielding technology for radiopharmaceutical products. As a Canadian-made company, SWE’s products are revolutionizing the manipulation and transportation of medical isotopes in Canada and globally. SWE comprises a small team of experts with broad experience in direct patient care, Radiopharmacy, Radiation Safety, and Radiochemistry, that allows them to produce adaptive shielding solutions. This expertise also allows SWE to best understand and predict emerging trends in the medical isotope marketplace.

One of such trends is the push towards a circular economic model for shielding components using safer, more effective materials. Whereas the industry has traditionally used lead products for shielding because it is inexpensive and easy to manipulate, lead can be neurotoxic and is usually discarded after each shipment. With the added negative environmental impact of lead processing (smelting, etc.), there exists a need to phase out lead in Nuclear Medicine (where possible).

Instead, SWE has innovated to use more optimal materials like Tungsten, Aluminum, or Leucite to produce customized shielding for each customer’s specific requirement. Approved by the CNSC for all modes of transport, SWE’s shielding solutions ensure radiation safety and consider employee safety at each stage of delivery and use. Simultaneously, SWE shielding is smaller, lighter, and safer than most traditional lead-made components.

Using more optimal materials, SWE’s products are recyclable which allows for less waste in the industry. Traditional lead components are shipped from producer to end user, and then thrown out. Having identified the radiopharmaceutical industry’s push towards a circular, green economy for materials, SWE has adapted its shielding to allow for round-trip shipping.

SWE is also demonstrating innovation in shielding to accommodate the rising prevalence and demand for Theranostic drugs. Theranostic radiopharmaceuticals, products that both diagnose and treat illnesses, will drive exponential growth in the nuclear medicine market in the coming years. The Theranostic branch typically uses high-energy radioisotopes, so shielding components must adapt to safely package, manipulate, and transport these emerging high-energy products to end-users around the world.

As new therapies are being approved to diagnose and treat many cancers and illnesses, the lifespan and quality of life for patients who were previously considered palliative will increase dramatically. Nuclear medicine and Molecular Imaging will drive this exciting renaissance of patient care and treatment, but the sector will need adequate government support to best serve patients here in Canada. As a member of the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council (CNIC) since 2019, SWE and CNIC advocate together to grow the isotope industry in Canada and ensure safe access to unique radiopharmaceutical products and technologies that are regularly in short supply.

Thanks to companies like SWE, Canada possesses tremendous production capacity and capabilities, in addition to a supportive Isotope Ecosystem that allow our industry to thrive. Within this Isotope Ecosystem are the many essential supply chain companies that make up our robust isotope industry. This Ecosystem includes the vast network of producers and associated processing facilities, but also the companies like SWE that provide specialized goods and services to Canadian and international producers alike.

At all stages of the production pipeline, Canada has the infrastructure and expertise necessary to become a global leader in medical isotopes. Though this infrastructure is spread across the country, the CNIC and its members work collectively to create a cohesive environment in which to promote Canada’s isotope industry.