This article has been updated from a previous version, which incorrectly used megahertz rather than m/z as the unit of measurement for the mass range of Agilent's 6410 triple-quadrupole instrument.
INDIANAPOLIS – At the American Society for Mass Spectrometry Conference on Mass Spectrometry this week, Agilent Technologies continued its push into the mass spectrometry market with upgrades to instruments rolled out a year ago, while Waters launched a protein identification system combining its two leading instruments.
After an aggressive campaign to raise its profile in the mass-spec space during the past year as part of a broader strategy to capture a bigger chunk of the overall proteomics market, Agilent upgraded its fleet of 6100 Series single-quadrupole mass specs, which it introduced at last year’s ASMS conference.
The company also announced plans to extend the mass range on its triple-quadrupole mass spec, which it introduced a year ago at Pittcon.
The upgrades to the 6110, 6120, 6130, and 6140 instruments will include improved injection-to-injection cycle times, which results in increased efficiencies for high-throughput laboratories.
Researchers will also be able to obtain high-quality mass-spec data across very narrow chromatographic peaks and maximum spectral information confirming that correct peaks are being identified. They also have faster positive/negative switching so that more information can be obtained.
In addition, Agilent said at the conference it is in the process of increasing the mass range on its 6410 triple-quadrupole instrument to 2,000 m/z from 1,650 m/z.
According to Nick Roelofs, Agilent’s vice president and general manager of life sciences, the upgrade was the result of the company’s ability to tap into the knowledge of its Electronic Measurement division.
“We’re starting to leverage our electronics side more heavily,” he told ProteoMonitor on the sidelines of this year’s American Society for Mass Spectrometry conference, held here this week. “The electronics side has some unique capabilities, and one of the things that we’re doing at this show is … getting ready to launch the upgrade to any of the instruments that have basically a quad front-end to it. So the triple-quad and the Q-TOF are going to get a new four-gigahertz board.”
Roelofs added that the upgrade “moves the sensitivity and the resolution of the instrument up a whole leap.”
Since Agilent divested its semiconductor business last year and reconfigured itself as a pure-play instrument firm, company officials have cited proteomics as a targeted growth market.
Last year’s launches began Agilent’s push into the proteomic space. More recently, the company said it wants to expand its LC business [See PM 03/08/07]. However, Roelofs, said, the company remains committed to improving the performance of its mass specs and building that part of its portfolio.
“We’re really focusing right now on the time-of-flight and quadrupolar sectors and really trying to push the limits of those,” he said.
On the triple-quadrupole instrument, work continues to increasing the vacuum to improve ion-flight times and less collisional deactivation, and developing higher specifications, in addition to increasing its mass range.
Agilent also continues exploring the potential for mass spec technologies for which it currently has no instruments, such as MALDI.
“We’re really focusing right now on the time-of-flight and quadrupolar sectors and really trying to push the limits of those.”
“Unfortunately, we haven’t yet found a way that we can contribute” to the MALDI market, said Roelofs. “But right now … we can make real contribution on the separations side, we can make real contributions in evolving electrospray. We’re doing a fast ion switching that goes into our single-quad and looking at our triple-quad with that as well.”
Meanwhile, over at Waters, the strategy seems to be to continue developing and maximizing the technology behind its flagship mass spectrometer and liquid chromatography system.
For some time, Waters has been singing the praises of its Synapt high-definition mass spec system and its Acquity UPLC. So it seemed fitting that this year the company’s lead launch would be a system combining both technologies for surer protein identification.
The Waters IdentityE high-definition proteomics system features the nanoAcquity UPLC along with either the Synapt HDMS or the Q-Tof Premier mass spectrometer. According to company officials, the system is a solution to one of the more confounding complexities of proteomics – bad data.
The company also introduced the MALDI Synapt HDMS system, building on the Synapt technology launched at last year’s ASMS conference.
For proteomics researchers, the IdentityE system was Waters’ headline news. While the field has its fair share of protein-identification systems, the research remains plagued by bad data, false positives, and results that cannot be validated, said Mark McDowall, strategic development manager for mass spectrometry at Waters.
“There’s an understanding in the field if you do mass spectrometry-enabled proteomics for a while that not everything is right with what is going on and what’s being [published in the scientific literature],” he said at a press conference accompanying the product launch.
The development of the IdentityE system, which took five years, was a response to the call within the research community for more stringent identification requirements, company officials said.
The Acquity UPLC component of the system allows for high chromatographic peak capacity — more than double that of HPLC, McDowall said — as well as retention time reproducibility, while Waters’ high-bandwidth mass spectrometry technology gives researchers high dynamic range resolution and consistent over-sampling of complex protein digests.
The end result enables researchers to identify more peptides and proteins with greater sequence coverage, Waters said.
At the same time, the introduction of the MALDI Synapt made it the second HDMS system Waters has ever launched. A dual-ionization instrument, it features both MALDI and atmospheric pressure ionization capability, and can be operated in TOF mode and ion-mobility/TOF mode.
The instrument also features Waters’ TriWave technology, which can differentiate ions based on size and shape as well as mass. It can also identify spectral components that would be missed using traditional MALDI analyses. According to Waters, this makes it possible to separate species of interest from MALDI matrix ions and background interference.