The University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute launched its radiopharmaceutical therapies Convergent Research Initiative (CRI) in 2024. Over the next five years, UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will invest $20 million to accelerate world-leading innovation and establish UT and ORNL as national leaders in this important joint area of research.

Led by a team of researchers from ORNL, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, the group’s goal is to develop new radiopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer. The radiopharmaceutical CRI team will focus its research on a new generation of theranostics—a combination of therapy and diagnostic imaging drugs—that utilizes targeted alpha-emitting radioisotope constructs to precisely kill cancer cells with minimal side effects.

The team also will work to establish the education framework and workforce pipeline needed to attract radiopharmaceutical companies to Tennessee.

Sandra Davern, ORNL’s section head for radioisotope research and development and initiative lead for accelerating radiotherapeutics through ORNL’s Advanced Molecular Constructs and the Accelerating Radiotherapeutic Innovations and Applications initiatives

Rachel Patton McCord, associate professor of Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology, Adjunct Associate Professor of Genome Science and Technology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Junming Yue, associate professor in pathology in UT Health Science Center’s College of Medicine

Dr. Gabor Joseph Tigyi, Harriet Van Vleet Endowed Professor in Basic Oncology at UT Health Science Center’s College of Medicine