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Agilent Launches New Lower-Cost Single Quads As It Aims to Double Share in Mass Spec Market

Aiming to provide its customers with more choices from its single quadrupole mass spectrometry portfolio, Agilent this week introduced four new models at the American Society for Mass Spectrometry meeting in Seattle.

The firm also said it is offering the instruments — which are all part of the new 6100 Series — at a discount to its predecessor single quads. According to Wayne Duncan, Agilent's product manager for single quad MS instruments, the primary reason for the discounts is increased price pressure from other vendors and the falling prices for triple quad instruments.

The firm has said that it hopes to double its share in the estimated $1.3-billion mass spectrometry market by 2008. It has been aggressive over the past couple of years in developing and launching new mass specs. Earlier this year, Agilent launched its first-ever Q-TOF and triple quad instruments, and updated its ion trap, TOF, and single quad instruments.

Looking to make further inroads into the market, the firm rolled out four new single quad instruments this week at the ASMS meeting. The 6140 and 6130 single quads, which are aimed at the high end of the market, and the 6120 and 6110, which are focused on the low end of the market.

"The demand over the last year [from pharma customers] has been down, and we've seen the same thing from our competitors. Big pharma is not spending at their normal rates, [but] there is some indication that that may be starting to change."

"Prior to this we had two models: a low end and a high end," said Duncan in an interview with BioCommerce Week. "What we've done is to introduce four models: two at the lower end and two at the higher end. The idea of that was to give the customers more choices and allow them to tailor the particular model to what they need to do."

According to Duncan, one of the key attributes of the new instruments is their smaller size. "We've decreased the size from a bench width of about 25 inches down to about 15 inches," he said. "Customers have been requesting that for quite some time."

Duncan also noted that the high-end 6140 model can do much faster scanning, "and the demand for that has been driven by the trend in almost all industries to go to faster chromatography," he said.

That particular high-end model was designed for use with Agilent's 1200 Series LC, which was launched earlier this year as a challenger to Waters' high-speed Acquity UPLC instrument (see BioCommerce Week 1/25/2006).

"We've done some additional things … to make the instrument more user-friendly for the customer," said Duncan, such as protection against accidental shut off.

He also noted that the firm offers an upgrade path from the entry-level model to the high end. "We felt this was important to protect customers' investment," Duncan said. Agilent offers a similar upgrade path for its 1200 Series LC.

According to Duncan, the biggest market for the single quads is in early drug discovery. "The single quad is ideal for that. Even the low-end models can do that because they are not sample-limited," he said.

Responding to Price Pressure

Duncan said that for the low-end single quads, Agilent dropped the price approximately 20 percent. "At the high end, it's only slightly lower — maybe up to 5 [percent], depending on the configuration," he said.

The firm will release pricing for the 6100 Series on June 1, the official launch date for the instruments. Agilent expects to begin shipping the single quads in September.

Although he couldn't provide pricing, Duncan said, "We are competitive from a pricing standpoint. It's a very competitive marketplace right now for single quads. With the drop in prices for benchtop triple quads, it's put a lot of pressure on the single quads."

He said that many customers have been opting for triple quad instruments for only a little more money so they can get MS/MS capabilities. "So what that has caused over the last … two years is a lot of pressure on especially the high end of the single quad," said Duncan.

"Everyone has been discounting to win deals, and we've stayed competitive in that regard," he said. "With these new products I think we'll be in even a better position from a pricing and competition standpoint. But, overall, it's awfully hard to determine a set price for any vendor because on any given deal they may [provide] a big discount."

He said the triple quad market is slightly bigger than the single quad in terms of dollars. "It doesn't have quite as many units as the single, but they do cost more," he said.

Duncan noted that there are approximately 1,000 single quads sold per year by all vendors.

"The demand over the last year [from pharma customers] has been down, and we've seen the same thing from our competitors," he said. "Big pharma is not spending at their normal rates, [but] there is some indication that that may be starting to change."

Duncan said the instruments would be sold by Agilent's front-line generalist sales force for the Life Sciences and Chemical Analysis business. He said the firm has sales specialists, and when needed they assist the front-line generalists.

— Edward Winnick ([email protected])

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