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When you meet Gregory Wade Brooksby for the first time, you’re reminded of a college professor, one who is enthusiastic about his chosen subject, and eager to share all the mysteries and amazement therein. Wade is not a professor of nuclear medicine or a scientist. He’s a business man, and has been one throughout his career. But for the past 6 years, he’s worked with a board of directors based out of Utah with a mission of bringing the technology and expertise needed to fulfill the nation’s medical needs. As diagnostic and therapeutic medicine has advanced, so has demand, and while we’re still in the midst of a healthcare crisis, the need to maintain a supply chain here at home is more evident than ever.  

When the FFBT team arrived at AZI, Wade and Mark LaBar were waiting, eager to show off the build site. Driving north of HWY 31, AZI sits quietly in front of Grissom AFB. Cranes, bobcats, and bulldozers all abound on the build site, along with a full construction team entrusted with building the unique and precisely designed structure. It is this complexity and uniqueness of design and function that makes AZI one of a kind, but also has proven difficult to explain in the past.

At FFBT, it’s been our good fortune to be able to work with Wade, Mark, and the team of AZI to bring this project to fruition. Of course, financing alone doesn’t enable this large of an endeavor. Wade has enjoyed working with everyone from the state level, to the county offices, city officials, and of course, Grissom Air Force Base itself. Creating isotopes that sometimes have very short half lives, the ability to quickly transport them to medical facilities around the country via air is invaluable, both from a business and medical point of view.

But what is the project, in a nutshell? AZI is currently awaiting delivery of a cyclotron, which allows the creation of medical isotopes that can be used both in diagnostic and therapeutic medicine. Medical isotopes have been on the scene for over a century, but their production has grown more efficient over the past few decades. The cyclotron on its way to AZI will be the second one of its size in the US, and only the fourth in the world. The other one is also here in Indiana, right down the road in Noblesville. It’s no coincidence that Wade found himself considering and then deciding on the Hoosier state for this venture.

AZI will be bringing highly skilled, highly compensated jobs to the county, with the well founded hope that partners in the medical industry will soon follow, drawn in by the possibility of getting hands on product within minutes, hours, or days, depending on the isotope in question. The venture is proving to be that elusive goal of so many—a win for everyone involved.

Wade showed us around the build site, his pride and humility apparent in equal measure. From outside the building, you cannot tell that the walls are 10’ of poured concrete. The outer wall of the cyclotron chamber is open now, awaiting its arrivel and eventual installation. Looking into this room, you’ll notice the installed crane, necessary to help put together the machine, lifting and adjusting parts well over 10,000 lb. Tubes are built in the concrete around the room, in which wires will carry information to the control room on the other side of the building.

On either side of the room, three round holes open to the vaults that will house the isotopes during irradiation. The cyclotron will emit a beam that travels through those holes to hit a target the size of a quarter. When this part of the process is complete, the isotope will travel through a rabbit shuttle not unlike the drive up tubes at the bank. Using operator controlled machine arms, the isotope will then be washed into a cartridge, from which the wash compound is then extracted. In the most simplistic terms possible, this is what will be happening on a day to day basis once AZI is in operation. Wade and Mark both speak of the process with the practiced ease of an expert.

Cyclotrons come in many sizes, but less than 10% of the USA currently has access to these valuable medical isotopes. To supply the entire nation, 7 large cyclotrons like the one being installed in August at AZI would be required. It’s a growing industry, and for Wade, this is why he came out of retirement to pursue this project.

That same board of directors will be at the open house to be held later this fall, as the community is welcome to tour the building and see what years of planning and work have accomplished. We’ll also be there, excited to see the cyclotron finally installed. With the tour complete, we parted ways with Wade and Mark, feeling grateful to play even a small role in this undertaking. Thank you to AZI for the opportunity - we can't wait to see what the future holds!

Written By: Jessica Rolph

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