Campus company: IsoLife

The Wageningen company IsoLife makes carbohydrates traceable with an isotope.

There are about 100 companies on campus. We introduce them to you in Resource. This time: IsoLife in Radix.

A plant-breeding company wants to know whether it is allowed to make the claim ‘healthier’ for its new potato variety. To qualify for such a claim, it must prove that the potato contains less fattening carbohydrate and that this leads to a lower blood sugar level in the body. So the breeding company calls the Wageningen company IsoLife, which makes carbohydrates traceable with an isotope.

IsoLife, based in Radix, is a uniquely specialized company that also works for research organizations in the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, China and the US. The company makes use of isotopes, of which every element has several.

The isotope products have provided the material for more than 200 scientific publications

Take carbon, for instance: 12C is the standard isotope, and IsoLife uses 13C, carbon with an extra neutron. In the case of the potato variety, the company will put the potato plants in a climate chamber with certain carbon or nitrogen isotopes. After that, the potato tubers will contain these isotopes and the digestion of the potato in the human body can be tracked. IsoLife has delivered more than 400 isotope products that provided the material for more than 200 scientific publications.

IsoLife is co-founded by Ton Gorissen and Ries de Visser. De Visser, who was then working at WUR, was given a research question by the Biochemistry group 18 years ago for which he had to build isotopes into potatoes. Now his company has between 50 and 100 clients per year, although it only employs three people. IsoLife rents a lot of apparatus and lab facilities at WUR, collaborates closely with Wageningen researchers, and hires technical services from WUR. ‘When something goes wrong you must act quickly because those isotope plants cost a fortune.’ PhD and Master’s students from WUR are always welcome.

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