An integrated value chain for radiation applications in healthcare in Belgium.
The huge potential of Belgium in the world of radioactivity-related healthcare applications is not sufficiently known internationally. Belgium presents the highest level of development in nuclear medicine and applications of radioactivity in healthcare worldwide, from reactors or cyclotrons over radiopharmaceuticals and clinical studies to daily practice. Belgium was one of the first European countries to invest in this science and technology and to develop a network of expertise and equipment, reaching a density much higher than that of other countries in the world. Belgium is a global leader for the production of radioisotopes and can assure up to 50% of the global needs.
As a consequence of the long-term commitment to the development of nuclear civilian applications, Belgium gathers an excellent know-how in the field. Belgium actually has one of the largest numbers of experts in this domain including a dedicated staff in university laboratories and research centres, and a strong expertise in regard to the educational aspects. Today the nuclear sector in Belgium represents 20,000 jobs, with roughly 23% in nuclear medicine.
Over the past decade new cancer therapies based on radioactivity have shown highly convincing results and Belgian centres are currently involved in various clinical trials with potentially high future impacts. External radiotherapeutic applications (proton therapy and hadron therapy) have also progressed over the past few years, and the leading company in this field is the Belgian company IBA (Ion Beam Applications). The second industrial source (Molybdenum 99 – 99Mo) of the most used radionuclide for diagnostic tests (Technetium 99 – 99mTc) in the world comes from Belgium as well, a source that is relying on a large Belgian reactor built many years ago by SCK•CEN (Belgian Nuclear Research Centre), and in the presence of IRE (Institute for Radio Elements) for the processing of these radionuclides.
Since conventional pharmaceutical industries as well as investors in healthcare from different countries are increasingly interested in the field and are looking for potential investments, the Belgian experts from this domain are combining their expertise to show the package of products, equipment, training and services the country can offer. In fact, a fully integrated value chain is represented and solutions for almost all requests to the use of radioactivity in healthcare can be addressed and answered in Belgium. The Rad4Med.be network has been created to gather this knowledge, expertise, and the stakeholders involved in these technologies.