B.C. medical isotope leader ARTMS raises US$19m

Triumf spinoff specializes in using widely available particle accelerators to address isotope shortage

ARTMS Inc. CEO Paul Schaeffer | Richard Lam

A B.C. company that went hunting for new capital to fund its advances in medical isotopes has landed US$19 million in financing.

ARTMS Products Inc. (pronounced like Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt) specializes in technology that produces the technetium-99m medical isotope.

It revealed Wednesday (May 20) the sizeable Series A funding round was led by Deerfield Management Company in New York and the Vancouver-based GHS Fund composed of Quark Venture LP and GF Securities.

ARTMS was spun off in 2010 from Triumf, the national particle accelerator centre based at the University Endowment Lands next to Vancouver.

Its goal is to address a global shortage of medical isotopes, which are used in diagnosing cancer and cardiac conditions.

The global supply of medical isotopes previously relied on production from a nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ontario, which produced a large quantity of a parent isotope that decayed over time to form the medical isotope.

As the costs of maintaining the reactor grew, the Canadian government halted production. 

That opened the door for ARTMS to use research from Triumf for commercial ventures.

Instead of a nuclear reactor, ARTMS has been developing hardware allowing an SUV-sized particle accelerator known as a cyclotron to produce medical isotopes.

These cyclotrons are found in most urban hospitals.

“Our idea was to do that at a smaller scale and decentralize the production, which was then to offset or allay any potential widespread outages in the future,” CEO Paul Schaffer told Business in Vancouver in 2018.

He said there was a period of time where the company’s business prospects were rather stagnant, but that changed in 2017 when it began signing deals with European medical facilities and a U.S. industrial giant. 

It also previously landed a US$3 million seed funding deal from Quark Venture to help it pursue business in China.

ARTMS plans to use the latest financing to continue collaborations with industry partners.

In August 2017, it installed a system in Denmark and announced a partnership with GE Healthcare to supply it with the hardware needed for producing the isotopes.

“They went from being, ‘Oh, that’s a cool idea. Not sure if it’ll work out,’ to now they’ve got customers and installations and venture funding,” Triumf Innovations CEO Kathryn Hayashi, who runs the national laboratory’s commercialization arm, said in 2018.