The lighter side of heavy water

Published: March 20, 2017

As explained by Andrew Thomas Burton Stuart, President & CEO of Isowater Corporation, deuterium oxide has a wide range of uses. He and other experts at Isowater have been speaking to Speciality Chemicals Magazine about the growing use of deuterium oxide in pharma applications. 
When water contains a high amount of deuterium (the ‘heavy hydrogen’ isotope; 2H), it is known colloquially as ‘heavy water’, or more formally as deuterium oxide (2H2O). Whereas protium (1H) has no neutron in the nucleus, the nucleus of deuterium contains one proton and one neutron, making it about twice as heavy as the more common isotope.

Separation from ordinary water is the cheapest bulk production process. Deuterium oxide may be separated from normal water by distillation or electrolysis, and also by various chemical exchange processes, all of which exploit a kinetic isotope effect.

Andrew Thomas Burton Stuart, President & CEO, founded Isowater Corporation in 2009. As an experienced energy technology executive with a deep background in heavy water and hydrogen, he has had more than 30 years of relevant industrial experience. He also has had considerable involvement in sustainability initiatives, having served on the Member Council of Sustainable Development Technology Canada, as well as the Board of Directors of Learning for a Sustainable Future. This is reflected in Isowater’s approach to producing and supplying deuterium oxide. Andrew Stuart had a vision to ensure the world does not run out of the rare compound. With this in mind, he and his team of globally recognised experts developed Isowater’s proprietary ‘Clean Tech D2X Process’ for producing a scalable, stable and secure supply of deuterium oxide.

Isowater’s standard product from inventory is 99.9% enriched, but they also dispense 70% deuterium enriched water for life sciences applications. Lisa Stuart, Vice President Sales and Marketing, says that demand from the life sciences is growing due to global research and on-going clinical trials involving deuterium oxide. “Successful FDA approval of lead pharmaceutical drugs currently in the pipeline will no doubt increase the demand for deuterium oxide,“ she explained.

“Isowater provides flexible and customer specific requirements for deuterium oxide”, noted Dr Alfred James (Jim) Farmilo, Vice-President and General Manager (and Chief Scientist) at Isowater.“Each application has its critical parameters.Our goal is to respond to market needs as these develop over the years and provide products tailored to key requirements of the medical industry and other industries we serve.”

Deuterium oxide is used in a number of ways in the medical and research setting. As explained by the experts at Isowater, deuteration of pharmaceuticals has the potential to ‘improve’ pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and toxicity profiles. The compound can also be used as a tool in applications such as metabolic testing, medical research, imaging or laser therapy.

In particular, deuteration offers a way to improve even those drugs that already enjoy wide acceptance due to the critical nature of their primary effect, but which reduce patients’ quality of life due to adverse side effects. It also presents a novel solution for pharmaceuticals that might otherwise be shelved due to their side effects of metabolic instability, offering a potential for wider acceptance and utility. Deuterium can also be used as a tracer in biological and metabolic studies, and its properties lend themselves to use in imaging or laser therapy.

Andrew Stuart concluded “Our customers are the leading edge of the future. Isowater is committed to the secure deuterium supply chain to meet customer requirements as applications develop and scale globally.”

This is the abridged version of a full-length feature article appearing in the April 2017 issue of Speciality Chemicals Magazine. To access the full article, visit . The April issue of the magazine will be on-line in the last week of March. You can subscribe to receive the magazine or read the article on-line.  



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