By Hamish Johnston
Earlier this month my colleague Tami Freeman was at CERN where she had a tour of what will soon be the Geneva-based lab’s first major facility for biomedical research. Called BioLEIR, the facility is now being created by modifying the existing Low Energy Ion Ring (LEIR).
LEIR is currently only used for several weeks each year to supply lead ions to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The idea behind BioLEIR is to make more use of the accelerator by creating beams of various types of ions and evaluating how they could be used to destroy tumours.
Of course, many medical applications have spun out of CERN over the years, including high-energy particle detectors for PET scanners and much of the technology used in dedicated accelerators for particle therapy. The lab also hosts experiments that investigate medical applications. These include ACE, which looks at how antimatter can be used for particle therapy.
But now for the first time in the lab’s 60-year history, CERN has created a dedicated office for medical applications, with BioLEIR being one of its first major projects. The office is headed by Steve Myers, who Freeman interviewed for her article “CERN intensifies medical physics research“.
Until recently Myers was CERN’s director of accelerators and technology, and last year I spoke to him about the ongoing upgrade of the LHC. That interview appears in our recent Focus on Big Science.