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ABI Launches Mass-Spec Services Aimed At Pharma, First-Time Instruments Users

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Applied Biosystems last week launched three new services aimed at users of mass spectrometers, especially those new to the instruments.
 
The services include repairing HPLCs manufactured by Agilent Technologies that are sold with ABI mass specs; validating software that audits mass specs in regulated drug discovery and development applications; and expanding ABI’s Smart Services to enable ABI instruments to be monitored remotely.
 
ABI’s model differs from existing services from life science rivals Agilent, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and PerkinElmer, which have been providing asset management services for their customers.
 
ABI, the world’s largest manufacturer and seller of mass spectrometers, created the service in response to the needs of the research community, Ramin Cyrus, vice president of marketing and business development for ABI Global Service, told ProteoMonitor this week.
 
“Especially as we move into more applied areas and applied markets like target validation or food testing … [and] forensics, [where] we don’t have our traditional researcher who knows our instrument inside and out … they’re looking for people [who] know the application and know that workflow,” said Cyrus.  “So in our case, it would be the HPLC, the mass spec, the autosampler — and we did a lot of market research, we met with a lot of customers. We asked them ‘What kind of services do you want from AB?’ and this is what came out.”
 
Cyrus declined to say how much revenue the new services are likely to generate, but said it will “clearly … help our service and instrument sides.” He added that “We’re going where the customers are.”
 
Asset Mismanagement
 
According to Cyrus, ABI chose not to adopt the asset-management model — a broad based approach in which one vendor is responsible for the maintenance and repairs of virtually all instruments in the facility — because the company felt that it does not serve either the customer or the company well.
 
“To us, [our model] allows us to stick to the knitting. This is our area of expertise, how our instruments use some of these applications,” he said. Under an asset-management agreement, by comparison, “you could be servicing a mass spec instrument, you could also be servicing a copier, right?
 
“For us, we think this is a better approach because, one, it allows us to remain experts in the area we know, but two, it allows us to offer services outside of just repair service. We can offer applications support, professional services, software validation. These are all the things that customers need to get their work done. Whether you fix a copier or not, it may save you some money, but is that critical to your workflow?”
 
The new services have benefits for proteomics researchers, but were created and packaged with drug makers in mind, whose researchers may be comparatively new to mass spectrometers.
 
In particular, said Tony Kerlavage, senior director for Global Service development at ABI, new research areas are opening in applied markets where those working with mass specs don’t have expertise with the instruments.
 
“You need to make your instruments and your workflows very easy to use and also very easy to offer and service,” he said.
 

“To us, [our model] allows us to stick to the knitting. This is our area of expertise, how our instruments use some of these applications.”

In the future, Cyrus said, the company will be offering services specifically directed at the academic market, as well as additional applied markets. In academia, ABI will be developing services that will allow scientists to see what new research they can work on because the trend is toward application development, he said.
 
“The academic [focus] is more around flexibility, cost savings, and bringing more predictability,” Cyrus said. In the applied markets, the focus is on simplifying processes and developing validation services.
 
Take a Ticket
 
ABI’s new services include repairing Agilent HPLCs. Under an agreement between Agilent and ABI, Agilent will train ABI technicians, provide them with original parts and documents, and help them support, maintain, and repair Agilent’s 1100 and 1200 Series HPLC instruments that are sold with ABI mass specs.
 
Agilent customers can get their HPLCs fixed elsewhere, and because the agreement is not exclusive, ABI can forge similar alliances with other vendors — including liquid chromatography vendor Eksigent, with which ABI has an OEM relationship.
 
But Cyrus said that because ABI has had the longest relationship with Agilent and more of its mass spec customers have an Agilent HPLC, it made sense to do an arrangement with that company first.
 
ABI is also offering its Analyst Software Validation Support Service, which is aimed at drug discovery and development researchers who use mass specs for greater accuracy in data analysis and reporting.
“Auditing these systems to ensure they provide adequate records of who is operating them, what kind of work is being conducted, and whether data falls within acceptable thresholds is essential to maintaining regulatory compliance,” ABI said in a statement announcing the program.
 
And under the Smart Center Online service, mass spec system administrators will be able to create web-based portals to monitor detailed information for specific instruments. They will also be able to monitor system alerts and alarms, access performance reports, and interact with ABI support staff. The system will increase system up time and reduce costs associated with service visits, the company said, as support personnel will be able to diagnose existing and potential problems before making a site visit.

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