COLUMBIA, Mo. — A big investment at the University of Missouri will help millions of cancer patients around the world. 

The MU Research Reactor facility, known as MURR, is the only manufacturer in the nation to produce lifesaving treatments for liver, pancreatic, thyroid and prostate cancers. The $20 million expansion project is expected to help scientists save more lives. 

Mizzou is the home to the largest university research reactor in the country and it’s about to get even bigger. 

“We are just at the beginning of a new era in the fight against cancer,” executive director of MURR Matt Sandford said. 

Gov. Mike Parson and other stakeholders broke ground Monday on a 47,000 square foot addition. The three-story building, which will be added on to the back of the current building, will expand the facility’s research and medical isotope production used to treat millions of cancer patients a year. 

“You’re really changing the world for the future when you look and now, we can send this medicine all over the world, where you used to have to go to just certain locations to be able to obtain it, now you have the opportunity to send it anywhere in the world to help people all over the world,” Parson said. 

Isotopes have a very short shelf life, meaning what’s produced today will be in patients later this week. 

“From the moment they come out of the reactor, they are decaying away,” Sanford said. “The active ingredients are quickly shipped to our partners, so they can be incorporated into the final drug products and those are quickly shipped to the hospital sites and used in patients.”

The current MURR was built in 1966. Operating at 10-megawatts, it is the nation’s most powerful university research reactor. It operates 52 weeks a year, 24 hours a day, 6.5 days a week. 

“Many paces around the United States have outstanding healthcare facilities but their model is come to where we are because we can treat you with our best doctors,” University of Missouri President Mun Choi said. “At the University of Missouri, we’ll say it doesn’t matter where you are, we’re going to send our lifesaving treatments to where you are.”

Besides the room for more research, Mizzou said it also needs more space for employees. Currently, many are doubled up in offices while others are housed in 30-year-old temporary trailers. 

The first floor of MURR West will provide 16,000 square feet for research initiatives, medical isotope production and collaborative projects. The second and third floors will offer office space for employees and shell space for future expansion. 

“This is an easy one,” University of Missouri Board of Curators chair Michael Williams said. “Is it good for our students, faculty and staff, is it good for our state and is it good for our country. This touches all of those boxes. This was an easy decision to say yes, we want to take not only the first step but let’s prepare for the second and the third step.”

The new building is expected to be completed by the end of next year.