NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Roughly one year after launching its flagship M908 miniature mass spectrometry device, 908 Devices announced this week that it has placed eight of the handheld units with the State of Massachusetts' Hazardous Materials Emergency Response division.
The financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed. However, a company official confirmed the M908 devices cost approximately $50,000 apiece, giving the deal a potential value of $400,000.
Meanwhile, after focusing on the US safety and securities markets during the initial rollout of M908, the firm has started taking steps to boost the product's adoption internationally. At the same time, it is actively working on developing versions of the device for use in the life sciences and applied markets, Chris Petty, 908 co-founder and VP of business development and marketing, told GenomeWeb.
The M908 is based on a technology known as high-pressure mass spectrometry (HPMS), which uses miniaturized ion traps that allow the device to operate at higher pressures than standard mass spectrometers. As a result, it doesn't require components like high-end vacuum pumps, thereby reducing its size, price, and energy requirements.
In March 2014, 908 introduced the M908 for the on-site detection of critical and hazardous compounds including chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial chemicals and materials, explosive materials, and drug substances.
Since then, the company has sold an undisclosed number of devices within the US and, more recently, internationally, Petty said. To accelerate its global expansion, last month 908 announced that it had established distribution partnerships with seven firms throughout Europe and Australia.
Specifically, 908 signed deals with Analyticon in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland; BLG in Turkey; RMI in the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, and Slovakia; HazMatLINK in the UK, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, and Luxembourg; BMD in Italy; Hi-Tech Detection Systems in France; and Warsash Scientific in Australia and New Zealand.
Petty said that 908 is targeting NATO countries initially, but expects to broaden its sales and marketing efforts to additional nations over the coming months.
Yet 908 views its HPMS as having potential beyond the military and security applications on which it has so far focused, he added. As such, the company has ongoing research and development efforts in other industries, which Petty said are expected to yield new product offerings potentially as early as next year.
With "a number of different initiatives going on … it's fair to say you'll see some things in the next year or two," he said.
One of the company's most advanced projects is in the oil and gas space, stemming from a 2013 deal with international oilfield service firm and 908 investor Schlumberger.
Specific details of that arrangement remain undisclosed, but Petty suggested that 908's technology could have a number of different applications in the industry.
"There are measurements needed from upfront exploration when you are first digging an exploratory well or looking for new sources of oil and gas, all the way through midstream into refining and even distribution of those products where the composition of the product is really key," he said. The HPMS technology could be particularly useful, he added, if used as a detector on the backend of a gas chromatography system.
908 is also interested in the potential of its technology in agriculture and food safety inspection.
For instance, testing food supplies for pesticide residues typically involves sending samples to a lab for analysis — a time-consuming process. "There is a lot of interest in trying to drive those measurements closer to where they're needed," Petty said.
Lastly, 908 is aiming to expand into the life sciences market, betting that the size and simplicity of its technology will appeal to researchers who'd like to be able to bring mass spec experiments in house, he said.
"Biology research today has access to very high-end liquid separation and research mass spec," Petty said. "But the capital cost of that equipment, the fact that it is very complex and tends to need specialists to operate and maintain it … tend to mean that … it's in a core lab," Petty said.
There will always be a place for the core facility, especially for complicated experiments, but "the way we look at it, there are folks who would love to be able to take their more routine measurements and do those right at their workbench," he added.
To Petty, this kind of transition is happening with many technologies, such as PCR.
"It wasn't so long ago that [a PCR system] was the size of a room, then it became the size of a refrigerator, and now a lot of research biologists have a personal PCR sitting on their workbench," he said. "I see that trend playing out here, as well."