You are here : Home > News > ISOTOPICS: The renewal of isotopic labeling for strengthening European therapeutic innovation

News | Newsletter | European & international partnerships | Health & life sciences | Biotechnology | Diagnosis and innovative treatment | Pharmacology | Biomarkers | Molecular mechanisms | Chemistry

ISOTOPICS: The renewal of isotopic labeling for strengthening European therapeutic innovation

​ISOTOPICS is a European research project which aims at the development of new methods for the chemical labeling of drug candidates to streamline drug innovation and to decrease drug attrition. The project, coordinated by CEA and granted by the European Commission for 4 years with a 4 million € budget, gathers 5 academic partners and 3 pharmaceutical companies in 5 European countries. ISOTOPICS will also train 15 PhD students to meet the need of industry by providing new researchers specialized in isotopic labeling chemistry with a dual academic/industrial culture.

Published on 2 February 2017
Drug discovery and development is a time-consuming, expensive and risky process since only one product on ten entering clinical trials will reach the market and this ratio is even reduced when targeting the central nervous system. This dramatic attrition of drug candidates is mainly related to poor efficacy and unexpected adverse effects observed in Phase II clinical trials1. This results in part from insufficiently addressed body distribution studies, accumulation and/or metabolization assessments which all are strongly limited by the lack of chemically labeled compounds available. One solution would be to test a larger number of labeled molecules in preclinical trials, but the number of isotopic labeling methods applicable to drugs candidates remains limited. 

Coordinated by the Institute of Biology and Technology (CEA, Saclay, France), ISOTOPICS aims at the development of an innovative isotopic chemistry for the labeling of large series of drugs including chemicals and biologics with (radioactive but not only) isotopes of hydrogen, carbon and fluorine that can be detected and quantified in trace amounts in biological fluids and through whole-body imaging.
This new chemistry is expected to enable the easy and quick identification of new drug candidates and to reject any candidate which might display insufficient efficacy or unpredictable adverse effects before the compound is selected for clinical trials. It is also expected to help in the development of new PET2 tracers for medical diagnostic.
Tomography of a mouse after injection of a radiolabeled drug candidate. © CEA

ISOTOPICS is anticipated to improve Drug Discovery and Development by decreasing drug attrition, streamlining the precocious in vivo evaluation of drug candidates to explore new therapeutic solutions, and training the next generation of (radio)labeling-specialized chemists with a strong background in medicinal chemistry through research lab experience, secondments in other partner’s premises, taught courses and workshops, and complementary skills training. 
Example of a drug radiolabeled with fluorine-18, a PET emitter (shown in light green). © CEA
 1 The phase II of a clinical trial corresponds to the testing of a drug on patients to assess its efficacy and safety. It follows a phase of test on non-human subjects (preclinical) and dose-ranging tests (phase I) and precedes the testing of its effectiveness (phase III) and post marketing surveillance once it is used by physicians (phase IV)
 2 PET stands for Positron Emission Tomography which is a nuclear medicine technique that is used to observe many biological processes in the body.


Gathering 8 partners and benefiting from an EU contribution amounting to 3 948 843.96 €, this highly interdisciplinary project is expected to have a profound beneficial impact on drug innovation in Europe by providing novel efficient techniques and new experts in the fields of labeling and medicinal chemistries.

​ ​The first project International Meeting has just been held in Paris (on November 24th and 25th 2016) and allowed all Partners to discuss about PhD projects and associated inter-sectorial secondments with the approval of both the Advisory and Supervisory Boards.Under the project reference 675071, the project is running from 2016 to 2019 and just held its first international meeting.
ISOTOPICS partners are The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA, Institute of Biology and Technology at Saclay as the project coordinator), the Centre of French National Scientific Research (CNRS, National Institute of Applied Sciences in Toulouse), the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford (UOXF), the Karolinska Institute PET Centre in Stockholm (KI), the Cyclotron Research Centre of the University of Liège (ULG) and three major pharmaceutical companies: UCB-Biopharma (Belgium), AstraZeneca (Sweden) and the Sanofi Group (Sanofi Aventis Deutschland GmbH  in Germany and Sanofi-Recherche in France). 

Top page

Top page