Project Details Nomenclature for polymeric carriers bearing chemical entities with specific activities and names

Project No.:
Start Date:
01 June 2015
End Date:
Division Name:


Polymers are now involved in a great number of human activities and of specific applications. Some of these applications require temporary or permanent immobilization of complex chemical species characterized by functional names (conjugates), as is the case in pharmacology for temporarily attached drugs or in dyestuffs for coupled dyes. IUPAC recommendations for the structure and source-based nomenclatures of polymers have clear limitations when dealing with current, common structures which combine macromolecular carriers and chemical entities with properties designed for such specific applications. This project will create rules required for unambiguous and facile naming of such modern, complex polymer conjugates.


Present IUPAC recommendations for the structure and source-based nomenclatures of polymers have clear limitations when dealing with current, common structures which combine macromolecular carriers and chemical entities (drug, dye, antibody, complex polymeric side-chains) with specific properties and names, as was revealed by the recent ‘Nomenclature for Chemically Modified Polymers‘ document prepared by members of the Subcommittee on Polymer Terminology (SPT) of Division IV. Firstly, the coupled entity is chemically modified and the coupling function must be included in the name; this is not presently dealt with even though the coupling functions can play important roles, in particular, in the case of desired controlled release. Secondly, the resulting names can be cumbersome and difficult to establish, and thirdly, the coupled macromolecule is not easily identifiable unless a typical functionality-based name is applied. Therefore, complementing IUPAC rules with rules for the naming of polymers conjugated with entities having specific functions and names is essential.

The project is focused on macromolecules (organic or inorganic) suitable for attachment of (or to) complex chemical entities, including small molecules, macromolecules and biopolymers known and named in relation to their utility. However, the recommendations will be applicable to any other carrier (inorganic or organic carrier like micelles, solid particles and surfaces) provided they bear identified chemical functions suitable for attachment.

In the initial stages, the project will aim at confronting the IUPAC recommendations for naming polymers and organic molecules with the identified problems and look to various ways to achieve harmonization. During the first two years, draft documents will be improved between the task group members to produce drafts up to submission to SPT during its annual meetings, up to final approval. When the draft is approved by the Subcommittee, it will be submitted to selected potential users for evaluation of its clarity and impact on future beneficiaries. Lastly, the finalized document will be submitted for publication in PAC, and thereafter the wider dissemination of the published recommendations will be undertaken. The work will be conducted in full consultation with existing SPT task groups handling more general projects on stereochemistry and on abbreviations of polymer names.

The project is supported both by Division IV (Polymer) and Division VIII (Chemical Nomenclature and Structure Representation).


An announcement of this project was published in the Sep 2015 issue of Chemistry International, p. 30-31,

May 2016 update – Initially, this project was based on the fact that many polymers are combined with complex molecules, including biopolymers, to form new systems that combine macromolecules and chemical entities with specific properties. The results of such combinations are known as conjugates. IUPAC recommendations for the structure-based and source-based nomenclatures of polymers have clear limitations when easy identification of the components is required. Although polymers are the most frequent carriers, many other substances are used as carriers in conjugates. For this reason, the project aims now at creating rules for unambiguous and facile naming of almost any kind of conjugates.

In August 2015 the task group examined the possible solutions at the meeting in Busan. Since then several on-line exchanges led to a draft composed of tentative names that allow easy recognition of the carrier, of the active substance and of the link between them. A new mode of naming is proposed that includes a new prefix “conj” followed by the identification of the components that form a conjugate. The proposed mode of naming includes the nature and the position of the chemical functions engaged in the linking. A few pertinent terms with specific definitions have been listed in a nomenclature section. A 6th draft was recently submitted to the task group members for discussion at the future IUPAC meeting in Istanbul. A change of title from “Nomenclature for polymeric carriers bearing chemical entities with specific activities and names” to “Nomenclature and Terminology of Conjugates” will be considered too.

July 2018 update – The project is now well advanced thanks to the contributions of group members from division IV and VIII to whom Karl-Heinz Hellwich, initially observer, was added as full member. A well advanced draft was analyzed during Macro2018 in Cairns and only minor comments were made. A new version is going to be issued before the end of September 2018 and submitted to the approval of the group members prior submission to PAC.

July 2020 update – After several online exchanges during year 2019 and three sessions organized during the Paris meeting (July 2019) that resulted in a couple of polishing corrections, a final draft was issued by the task group. The draft was finally named “Terminology and Nomenclature for Conjugates based on Polymers or other Substrates” to cover the whole domain of conjugates and not only that relative to polymer-based ones as initially thought. The draft was submitted to the SPT sub-committee in December 2019 and approved by the end of January. In early April, the revised version was submitted to the President of the Polymer Division for simultaneous reviewing by Division IV and VIII with deadline set as end of April. Recently, a list of 15 reviewers has been prepared and the Provisional Recommendations submitted to ICTNS. Publication in PAC is still expected by the end of year 2020.

 July 2021 update – The provisional recommendation is available for comments till 30 Nov 2021

Page last updated 23 July 2021