Amsterdam UMC Imaging Center

Tracer Center Amsterdam

Better understanding through use of tracers

The Tracer Center Amsterdam (TCA) is a R&D facility where radiopharmaceuticals and optical imaging probes (“tracers”) necessary for multimodality imaging are designed, synthesized, investigated and ultimately manufactured in compliance with good manufacturing practice (GMP). Here tracers are developed under highly controlled and sterile laboratory conditions in a cleanroom. Special focus is on the radiolabeling of novel therapeutic drugs, developed by innovative (inter)national SMEs and big pharmaceutical companies, to enable their imaging in early clinical trials. This approach allows selection of the best drugs and patients that might benefit most of therapy. This will contribute to the societal challenges of cost-effective drug development and individualized therapy.

TCA: Creating a better understanding of high impact diseases and disease-specific molecular and cellular targets and targeted drugs by the use of tracers.


The research performed at the Tracer Center Amsterdam focuses on the development of radiopharmaceuticals and optical imaging probes. The following topics can be distinguished:

  1. Basic research focusing on radionuclide production and radiochemistry methods
  2. Methods for (automated) synthesis and purification of radiopharmaceuticals and optical imaging probes
  3. Selection and validation of biological targets (such as enzymes or receptors) and in vitro evaluation of new radiopharmaceuticals and optical imaging probes acting at these targets
  4. Selection of leads and lead optimization for new radiopharmaceuticals
  5. Preclinical in vivo evaluation of new radiopharmaceuticals and optical imaging probes and research towards GMP compliant synthesis methods for radiopharmaceuticals and optical imaging probes.

In about 50% of the research projects only academic groups are involved, while in the other 50% industrial partners are involved or initiate the research project. The majority of projects is performed within an international setting by an international team of researchers.

Together with BV Cyclotron VU new radionuclide production methods as well as applications of radionuclides are investigated. Moreover, the implementation of reliable and GMP compliant production methods at the BV Cyclotron VU is assisted by researchers of the TCA radiopharmaceutical chemists.

TCA houses labs for organic chemistry, radiochemistry, cell culturing and biochemistry (1520 m2 in total). In these labs the following equipment is currently present (and may evolve in type and function over time):

  • 7 research hot cells,
  • 28 fume hoods,
  • multiple HPLC systems,
  • 3 UPLC systems,
  • predominantly home build radiosynthesis systems, but also Neptis, Synthera and All-in-One,
  • gamma and beta counters (Perkin Elmer and HIDEX),
  • phosphorimager (GE),
  • Mediso nano PET/CT and nano PET/MR,
  • Bruker Xtreme optical/CT,
  • housing for small laboratory animals.

The facility has a B-level license to work with radionuclides which gives permission to work with all radionuclides. However, research is focused on carbon-11 (t1/2 = 20 min), fluorine-18 (t1/2 = 110 min) and zirconium-89 (t1/2 = 78.4 h). TCA holds required licenses to work with genetically modified organisms.

GMP compliant manufacturer

The good manufacturing practice (GMP) compliant laboratory supports clinical research. To this end, 10 production hot cells and 2 dispending hot cells are available, and equipped with state of the art synthesis and dispending modules. Furthermore, dedicated quality control equipment is available. Tracer Center Amsterdam holds the governmental issued GMP license and manufactures over 50 different radiopharmaceuticals to support around 30 clinical research projects simultaneously (also abroad) and in addition supports daily patient care with the supply of tracers without marketing authorization. TCA has developed in total >100 tracers over the past twenty years.

Trace diseases on a molecular level and in real-time

Follow the medicines in the body during treatment

Observe the patients reaction to treatment