European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, headquartered in Geneva, is the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics. With 23 Member States, and other nations and international organizations CERN is home to the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, where physicists and engineers probe the fundamental structure of the universe. They use the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter. Founded in 1954, CERN laboratory sits astride the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva and it is one of Europe’s first joint ventures. CERN laboratory employs about 2,500 full-time employees, and hosts some 10,000 visiting scientists and engineers, from 608 universities/research facilities and 113 countries. While carrying out its fundamental research CERN develops technologies and is at the front end and cutting edge in detector, electronic, information technologies, novel isotopes research line. Besides the development and operation of complex accelerators and particle detectors, CERN also develops an active program of transfer of knowledge towards the medical field. In particular, CERN hosted the design study for carbon hadron therapy centers, developed detector and dosimetry technologies to be used in PET-Scanners. It developed the CERN-MEDICIS facility for the production of innovative radioisotopes for diagnostics and treatment, and its research in radiopharmaceuticals with partner biomedical research institutes.

CERN’s Experimental Physics Department has about 700 staff and fellows and supports about 10,000 users carrying out research in the field of experimental and theoretical particle physics, nuclear physics, fundamental interactions, and other fields of physics. CERN has extensive experience as a coordinator or partner of EU projects and takes part in 47 ongoing H2020 projects out of which 18 are coordinated by CERN. This includes 17 on Research infrastructures, 12 on E-infrastructures, 18 Marie-Curie actions, and 9 ERC projects.

In 2012, the Laboratory established the CERN-MEDICIS (Medical Isotopes Collected from ISOLDE) project, a facility designed to handle radioactive sources suitable for the production of innovative medical isotopes, which will be dispatched in small batches of up to 500 MBq to the partner institutions of the CERN-MEDICIS collaboration for fundamental and pre- clinical medical research. MEDICIS aims to provide a wide range of radioisotopes, some of which can only be produced at CERN thanks to the unique ISOLDE facility. These radioisotopes are intended for applications in hospitals and research centres across Europe. Progress in the use of radioisotopes for diagnosis and treatment has been made and MEDICIS will enable researchers to devise and test unconventional radioisotopes with a view to developing new cancer treatments. CERN-MEDICIS facility is currently operational in the framework of an international collaboration and as part of the project, a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network has been initiated, with 15 researchers involved and 16 institutions.

CERN’s Knowledge Transfer Group (KT) is part of the IPT (Industry, Procurement and Knowledge Transfer) Department. The KT group ensures the liaison with industry for proper dissemination of the Laboratory’s know-how and technologies, deals with IP matter for CERN, negotiates and puts in place the necessary agreements with selected project partners. The KT Medical Applications (KT-MA) Section provides operational support for and coordinates CERN’s medical applications-related activities.


MEDICIS uses a proton beam from ISOLDE – the Isotope Mass Separator Online facility at CERN – to produce radioisotopes for medical research. The first batch produced was Terbium 155Tb, which is considered a promising radioisotope for diagnosing prostate cancer, as early results have recently shown. Radioisotopes are already widely used by the medical community for imaging, diagnosis and radiation therapy. However, many do not combine the most appropriate physical and chemical properties and, in some cases, a different type of radiation could be better suited.

Role in project

The development and testing of new radiopharmaceuticals that combine diagnostics and therapy is the core mission of CERN-MEDICIS. The MEDICIS collaboration defines and streamlines the research projects to ensure smooth and rapid development of prospective radiopharmaceuticals from cell line testing, preclinical testing up to pilot clinical trials. In particular, the combination of diagnostics pharmaceuticals such as PET tracers and the subsequent use of a treatment radiopharmaceuticals is the core activities of the different research projects that take place in the facility.

The role of CERN in the project is to provide expertise related to the production and handling of radioactive isotopes, on nuclear physics, including the polarisation and NMR of radioactive isotopes, and on the properties of beta- and gamma-decay, as well as on gamma-ray detectors and electronics. The main contribution of CERN is related to the expertise of the researcher that works on the MEDICIS project.

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