Funding for Accelerated, Inclusive Research (FAIR) Initiative Will Support Research at Minority Serving Institutions and Emerging Research

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $37 million in funding for 52 projects to 44 institutions to build research capacity, infrastructure, and expertise at institutions historically underrepresented in DOE’s Office of Science portfolio, including Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and Emerging Research Institutions (ERIs). Through the Funding for Accelerated, Inclusive Research (FAIR) initiative, the Office of Science is supporting mutually beneficial relationships between MSIs/ERIs and partnering institutions to perform basic research in applied mathematics, biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, geoscience, isotope research, materials science, and physics. Ensuring America’s best and brightest students have pathways to STEM fields will be key to achieving President Biden’s energy and climate goals, including achieving a net-zero carbon economy by 2050. 

The Department of Energy Isotope Program (DOE IP) has one project funded with this initiative. The project titled "Increasing Access to Radioisotopes by Advancing Radiochemical Training Capabilities" was proposed by Melissa Deri from CUNY Lehman College in collaboration with Vanessa Sanders at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL).

Objectives of the Project

This proposal aims to build high impact research capacity and infrastructure at Lehman College through equipping/furnishing radiochemistry laboratory facilities. This will improve the research and training capabilities on campus and enable more direct participation in isotope production projects. This project will also further strengthen the existing collaborations between Lehman College and the Medical Isotope Research and Production (MIRP) group at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) through the expansion of our common efforts to advance radioisotopes of scandium for medical applications. Our combined focus on the chemistry of titanium/scandium separations for target processing and generator design will expand the accessibility/availability of radioscandium and highlight its utility within nuclear medicine. With improved resources and growing expertise, this collaboration can also increase its scope to additional radiometals.

Interest in radioisotopes of scandium, especially 44Sc and 47Sc, has only grown in recent years due to their individual and combined potential in nuclear medicine. 44Sc is a positron emitting radionuclide with a half-life of 3.97 h that is well suited for positron emission tomography (PET) while 47Sc has a half-life of 3.35 d and emits moderate energy beta particles suitable for targeted radiotherapy. This project investigates the isotope production, purification, separation, and radiochemical synthesis of both aforementioned scandium isotopes as a method to both accelerate their development and availability for radiopharmaceutical use and as to recruit and train a new generation of radiochemists and nuclear scientists at Lehman College.

Description of the Project

The expertise from BNL will inform the development of complementary radiochemical facilities at Lehman College to assure a mutually beneficial collaboration on the proposed projects focusing on radioscandium production and chemistry. Non-radioactive, macroscopic synthesis and characterization as well as low activity radiochemistry work will be led at Lehman College, while target irradiations and processing as well as scaled up radioactive work will be carried out at BNL. We aim to (1) develop improved accelerator production of 47Sc through further evaluation of a TiO2 target for the 48Ti(p,2p)47Sc production route with a focus on optimizing post-irradiation separation chemistry, (2) investigate inorganic resin systems for use in a 44Ti/44Sc radionuclide generator to improve 44Ti retention and generator lifetime, (3) demonstrate the utility of radioscandium isotopes by optimizing synthetic radiochemical protocols for labeling bioconjugates with radioscandium with established and novel chelating agents, and (4) expand these research capabilities to other radionuclides of interest, namely radio-lanthanides and actinides.

Potential Impact of the Project

Enhancing Lehman’s radiochemical research capacity will greatly increase the number and diversity of students who are able to participate in and be exposed to isotope production science. The existing collaboration with BNL has most directly impacted students who are able to travel there to conduct some radioactive experiments. Enabling those experiments to be done on campus at Lehman will allow for many more students to get involved which in turn will significantly increase the training and recruiting of students into nuclear science to enhance workforce development. Additionally, bringing these students onto these projects will benefit the research through their dedication and creativity. Developing improved radiochemical separations for scandium and titanium will increase the availability of multiple isotopes of radoscandium with direct clinical relevance. Combined with optimized radiolabeling protocols, this will lead to a surge in radiopharmaceutical research. Furthermore, the fundamental chemistry developed can be translated to other tri- and tetravalent radiometals of interest within isotope production.


About City University of New York

The City University of New York (CUNY) is the nation’s leading urban public university, consisting of a network of 25 institutions, including 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, and numerous others. With a yearly enrollment of over 243,000 degree-seeking students, Lehman College serves as CUNY's sole four-year college located in the Bronx.