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After ISOTOPICS, ISOBIOTICS, the renewal of isotope labeling to strengthen european therapeutic innovation

​In April 2022, the SCBM (DMTS) was awarded funding from the Horizon Europe program for the ISOBIOTICS project, coordinated by Christophe Dugave. This project will enable the theoretical and practical training of 11 PhD students, including two at SCBM and one at SHFJ, on the development of innovative methods for the isotopic labeling of biological drugs such as peptides, proteins and oligonucleotides.​

Published on 9 August 2023

​Developing a drug is a lengthy, regulated process which generally includes a drug discovery phase, during which molecules of interest are identified, followed by a preclinical research phase, during which drug candidates undergo proof-of-concept validation. This step, which requires the isotopic labeling of the numerous candidate molecules (with deuterium (2H), tritium (3H), carbon-11, carbon-14 or fluorine-18) in order to trace their pathway through the body, is very often a limiting stage in the process. The development of new methods for the simple, rapid and specific introduction of these isotopes into drug candidates is absolutely crucial. It is in this context that ISOTOPICS was launched in 2016, and ISOBIOTICS in 2023.

ISOBIOTICS: an innovative labeling strategy for biological drugs

ISOBIOTICS (Isotopic Labeling of Biotherapeutics) is a european cross-sectoral Doctoral Network (DN, ex-ITN) that began in February 2023 and aims to provide immediate solutions to the most pressing problems concerning isotope labeling for the development of new bio-drugs. Biomolecules account for 55% of new drugs launched on the market in 2022, and almost 2/3 of pharmaceutical industry revenues. However, their isotopic labeling is tricky because of their large size, complexity and fragility. The challenge for ISOBIOTICS is therefore to design non-invasive methods for specific radiolabeling adapted to these particular molecules. Such radiolabeling strategies will i) advance the research and development of biotherapies that are more effective in terms of targeting and less immunogenic, and ii) train a new generation of radiochemists with a dual academic and industrial culture who will implement these methods to meet the needs of european industry.

See also the ISOBIOTICS summary in our Europe web pages.

Contact and coordination : Christophe Dugave  Phone : 33 1 69 08 99 38

 - ISOBIOTICS website :

 ISOBIOTICS official video

 - ISOBIOTICS Newsletter n°1​ (summer 2023)


A look back at the ISOTOPICS success story

In 2015, SCBM was awarded an ITN (International Training Network) under the H2020 program for a total of 4 million euros, aimed at training 15 highly specialized PhDs in chemistry (including 4 at SCBM). The ISOTOPICS project (Isotopic Labeling for Drug Innovation), also coordinated by Christophe Dugave, aimed to develop new methods for labeling drug candidates with 2H/3H and 14C for preclinical studies, and with 11C and 18F for clinical studies. ISOTOPICS has been a great success, extending the concept of late labeling (used for deuterium and tritium) to other elements such as carbon-11, carbon-14 and fluorine-18. These techniques have been applied to drugs already on the market, as well as to compounds under development. The project saw the publication of 44 scientific articles and 1 patent. The 15 PhD students have defended their theses and found permanent employment (9 in the private and industrial sectors, 3 in academia), while 3 are completing their training with a post-doctoral internship. The project has also enabled the establishment of a network of international and cross-sector relations, which have led to new collaborations.

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