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AB Sciex Launches TripleTOF 4600 as Lower-Priced Alternative to 5600

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AB Sciex this week launched its new TripleTOF 4600 mass spectrometer, a mid-range version of its high-end TripleTOF 5600 instrument.

The machine, which the company will begin shipping this quarter, will cost between 70 percent and 80 percent of a 5600 while offering equivalent speed, as well as the capability to perform both quantitative and qualitative analyses on a single platform, Dominic Gostick, senior director of academic business at AB Sciex, told ProteoMonitor.

The company did not disclose the list price of the system.

The instrument is aimed, Gostick said, at applied markets like food and environmental testing, as well as the academic and proteomics space where it is intended as "a workhorse system capable of protein ID and [AB Sciex's] iTRAQ chemistry workflows."

The company is also very much targeting the instrument at emerging markets, Gostick said, a fact strongly suggested by its decision to launch it at this week's Asia Oceania Human Proteome Organization meeting in Beijing, as opposed to the upcoming American Society for Mass Spectrometry meeting – typically a venue for mass spec releases.

"I think this is the first product [AB Sciex] has launched outside of North America," Gostick said. "I think that recognizes the fact that this is a platform that we see as having great opportunity in emerging markets such as Asia."

"It's a workhorse instrument, which is obviously very compelling to the emerging markets," where "high performance at a value price point" is appealing, he said.

The system's reduced price stems primarily from its lower-end vacuum system, Gostick said.

According to Chris Colangelo, director of Yale University's Protein Profiling Resource and an advance user of the system, due to this compromise, "the resolution and sensitivity" of the system "might be slightly less" compared to the 5600.

For proteomics applications, Colangelo said he thought the instrument was primarily "targeting the cell biologists themselves" as opposed to large proteomics labs.

"If a young new professor in cell biology wants to do proteomics … he can get a grant from NIH, buy this instrument with a chromatography system, and actually go in and do both the ID and quantitation on the system," he told ProteoMonitor.

In terms of more established proteomics labs, Colangelo said the instrument "could be interesting as a workhorse. You buy two or three of them and put them in the corner."

Gostick declined to state specific instruments the 4600 was designed to compete with, noting only that AB Sciex sees it "as a mid-range accurate mass platform to compete with other mid-range accurate mass platforms in the market," but Thermo Fisher Scientific's mid-range Q Exactive instrument seems a likely competitor.

Thermo Fisher launched the Q Exactive, which combines a quadrupole for precursor selection with an Orbitrap mass analyzer, at last year's ASMS meeting as its first entry onto the Q-TOF market (PM 6/10/2012).

Since then, the company has seen strong sales of the instrument, with CEO Marc Casper calling it during a fourth-quarter earnings call a "key aspect" of the company's revenue growth.

He added that Thermo Fisher believed the instrument was "already gaining share in the Q-TOF space for protein identification and metabolomic research."

Since the release of the Q Exactive, Thermo Fisher has highlighted what it calls Exactive's "quanfirmation" capabilities, which, the company says, allows the instrument to identify, quantify, and confirm analytes like peptides and proteins in complex mixtures in one analytical run.

As Ian Jardine, Thermo Fisher's vice president of global R&D, told ProteoMonitor last year upon the release of the instrument, this "means that you can do a single run of LC-MS with MS/MS, and the data is so good that you can go into it and identify the components of interest and you can also go back and quantify the components of interest."

Likewise, AB Sciex's 4600 – like its more expensive 5600 model – will allow researchers to develop peptide ID and quantitation assays on the same instrument.

"You basically are going to have the ability to do ID like you do on the 5600 … and you'll ID 1,000 proteins in an hour, Colangelo said. "[Then] you can turn around, develop an accurate mass, MS/MS quantitation assay on the same system, rerun the sample, extract out the MS/MS ions, and do quantitation on it like you would a triple-quadrupole."

He suggested that the release fit into a larger trend within the industry of moving toward high-resolution machines for quantitation as an alternative to triple quadrupoles.

"I think the whole industry, you're going to see, is moving towards accurate mass, MS/MS quantitation," Colangelo said. "Accurate mass, MS/MS quantitation is where most of the vendors feel the proteomics field is moving to. You've seen this the last two years, and I think this box addresses that need, particularly as a mid-level [price] range."

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