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Biosynthetic toolboxes for the extraction of radionuclides

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Short-lived radioactive lanthanides are attractive radioisotopes for targeted radionuclide therapy, which is a rapidly growing class of cancer treatment. The development of such radiopharmaceuticals evidently relies on the production of these radioisotopes and generates particular waste streams. Although both are routine and established practices, researchers are exploring novel approaches as an alternative to extract or recover radionuclides in order to circumvent current drawbacks. This involves developing and using specially engineered microorganisms that are modified to bind to the desired elements. By selecting or engineering the right bacterial strains, highly specific and efficient extraction systems can be obtained.

In this project, different biosynthetic toolboxes will be developed and compared. A synthetic approach will be used in order to engineer the desirable features, i.e. radionuclide-binding, on the surface of different microorganisms. The developed tools will be assessed side-by-side and their potential to quantitatively and selectively recover radionuclides will be evaluated.

This innovative approach will allow optimizing the product life cycle and will contribute to the successful implementation of targeted radionuclide therapy. In addition, the use of microorganisms in element extraction/recovery is part of a broader trend toward sustainable and environmentally responsible sourcing of critical materials.

The minimum diploma level of the candidate needs to be

  • Master of sciences

The candidate needs to have a background in

  • Bio-engineering
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Biochemistry

Estimated duration

4 years

Expert group

RadioPharma Research

SCK CEN Mentor

Mijnendonckx Kristel
kristel.mijnendonckx [at]
+32 (0)14 33 21 06

SCK CEN Co-mentor

Van Houdt Rob
rob.van.houdt [at]
+32 (0)14 33 27 28


Matroule Jean-Yves
jean-yves.matroule [at]