Radionuclides are produced according to the present invention at commercially significant yields and at specific activities which are suitable for use in radiodiagnostic agents such as PET imaging agents and radiotherapeutic agents and/or compositions. In the method and system of the present invention, a solid target having an isotopically enriched target layer electroplated on an inert substrate is positioned in a specially designed target holder and irradiated with a charged-particle beam. The beam is preferably generated using an accelerator such as a biomedical cyclotron at energies ranging from about 5 MeV to about 25 MeV. The target is preferably directly irradiated, without an intervening attenuating foil, and with the charged particle beam impinging an area which substantially matches the target area. The irradiated target is remotely and automatically transferred from the target holder, preferably without transferring any target holder subassemblies, to a conveyance system which is preferably a pneumatic or hydraulic conveyance system, and then further transferred to an automated separation system. The system is effective for processing a single target or a plurality of targets. After separation, the unreacted target material can be recycled for preparation of other targets. In a preferred application of the invention, a biomedical cyclotron has been used to produce over 500 mCi of .sup.64 Cu having a specific activity of over 300 mCi/.mu.g Cu according to the reaction .sup.64 Ni(p,n).sup.64 Cu. These results indicate that accelerator-produced .sup.64 Cu is suitable for radiopharmaceutical diagnostic and therapeutic applications.
This invention was developed, in part, through research supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (SBIR R43-CA66411-01) and the Department of Energy (STTR DE-FG02-94ER86015 and DE-FG02-87ER60512). The U.S. government may have certain rights in this invention.