The research federation « Physics and Chemistry of Life » (FR 2708), combining the Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire (CBM, UPR 4301) and the Institut de Chimie Organique et Analytique (ICOA, UMR 7311), was created 6 years ago. The aim is to stimulate positive synergy between the two laboratories: the CBM identifies and provides the targets (receptors) while ICOA develops the active molecules. The combined facilities of the two laboratories thus permit study of the protein/ligand interactions. The collaborations have become increasingly complex and more profound as a result of the deepening links between different research groups within the two laboratories. The CBM includes research groups specialising in imaging (MRI, optical…) of living entities. Since progress in imaging techniques has been very rapid, the challenge now is to go further than simple anatomical imaging and to develop physiological imagery. This implies molecular imaging that requires the use of tracers.

Thus, the Federation has allowed the development of a chain of processes from conception, production (synthesis), to the characterisation of the molecules. Optimal mutualisation of large equipment and personnel between the two laboratories is an important result of the synergy within the federation. For example, we have acquired a high resolution mass spectrometer to study both small molecules (active molecules) as well as the target biological macromolecules. This process is being continued with the on-going acquisition of a high field NMR spectrometer (16,4 T) which will permit study of enzyme/ligand interactions in solution. It would not have been possible to buy such equipments without the association of the two laboratories. Another example is the combining of human resources to provide a joint molecular modelling service. The federation structure is useful for obtaining not only large instrumentation but also for efficiently recruiting personnel. The recruitment of a computer engineer who divides his time between the two laboratories, to the satisfaction of both, is a successful example.

Vigorous scientific activity within the federation is demonstrated by joint publications and the development of important innovative research projects that are only made possible because of the critical size of the federation. Such research projects have an important impact at local, regional and national levels because it is rare to find this kind of complementary facilities and scientific expertise in the same place that are necessary for addressing certain critical research topics.