Science - February 24, 2005

New company wins prize

The brand new company IsoLife has got off to an excellent start. In the first week of its formal existence the company was awarded the BioPartner Masterclass Award 2004, worth thirty thousand euros. The jury consisted of representatives from industry, the world of finance and the government body BioPartner.

IsoLife is a spin-off from Plant Research International, and is the initiative of researcher Ries de Visser. The company makes plant material labels from isotopes. Carbon occurs naturally with twelve nuclear particles (C12), but also with thirteen (C13) and fourteen (C14, the radioactive isotope).

IsoLife is going to grow plants containing C13. This isotope is not radioactive, but with advanced laboratory techniques it is possible to distinguish C13 from normal carbon, which consists almost entirely of C12. Non-radioactive isotopes are also available for sulphur, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen and IsoLife will also build these into plants as labels.

IsoLife will then isolate these built-in substances from the plants and make them available to companies or research institutes for use in research on metabolism. One path that IsoLife is pursuing is supplying the material to the manufacturers of sports foods. These companies could for example use C13-labelled sugars to examine how quickly the energy in sports drinks is absorbed into the bloodstream in athletes. / KV

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