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Chasing Acquity, Agilent Launches 1290 UHPLC

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Agilent Technologies this week launched the 1290 Infinity Liquid Chromatography System, which it said delivers the industry's largest analytical power range.

The system, according to Agilent, delivers unmatched flow rate and pressure "enabling users to deploy any particle type, any column dimensions, or any mobile and stationary phases," it said in a statement. The 1290 also is the first system that delivers the foundations for method transferability from and to any UHPLC and HPLC system.

While the company had been offering UHPLC systems since 2006 when it launched its 1200 Rapid Resolution LC systems, the company considers the 1290 "a brand new option for researchers," rather than a replacement for another Agilent LC platform, Helmut Schulenberg-Schell, marketing manager for LC at Agilent, told ProteoMonitor this week.

Among the new designs is a new binary pump module that reduces background noise. Active Damping combines new pump engineering with embedded firmware to reduce pump ripples and associated UV noise, while the company's Jet Weaver microfluiding mixing technology combined with the industry's "highest gradient mixing efficiency with the lowest delay volume" enhance throughput, according to Agilent.

The system, which is priced at about $100,000, features a new UV Diode Array Detector with at least twice the sensitivity of its nearest competitor, according to Agilent. The new module contains a new Max-Light Cartridge Cell with optofluidic waveguides to provide the "category's lowest limit of detection and highest signal-to-noise ratio."

For proteomics researchers, the new platform results in higher throughput and better quality data that can be achieved, Schulenberg-Schell said.

"What we offer is an acceleration of what people have been doing," he said. "If you look [at] tryptic digest as one of the typical samples that proteomics customers are doing, this is now strongly accelerated by doing much faster gradients than ever before. That means in a shorter you get a higher plate number … and that means your peak capacity is about doubled [from] what was available previously."

Many proteomics researchers combine LC separation with mass spec-based protein identification, but a phenomenon that occurs is ion suppression, which can decrease sensitivity and even prevent peptide identification.

Better compound separation eliminates that, and the clean protein separation that can be achieved on the 1290 leads to better mass-spec results "and therefore you have more peptides and proteins identified," Schulenberg-Schell, said.

While he said that the 1290 is not directed specifically at Waters' Acquity system — he avoided making any comparisons to the platform — that system is generally recognized as the standard when it comes to ultra high-performance LC instruments. This week, during Waters' earnings release conference call, officials said that customer interest in the Acquity remains strong.

Waters CEO Douglas Berthiaume said that big pharma has expressed a "high level of interest" in the platform and added "I think we're going to be in a position to announce" deals similar to one it has with AstraZeneca in which the drug maker is standardizing on the Acquity [see related story].

Regardless, market adoption of the UHPLC systems has been slow and in the past Waters officials have said that the number of Acquity systems on the market remains a small fraction of the number of installed HPLC systems is a small fraction.

Schulenberg-Schell said that HPLC's have a huge installed base of "several hundred thousand" systems. In addition, the lifespan of an HPLC is between seven to 10 years making the replacement cycle a long one. Market research has shown an annual growth rate of between 20 percent and 30 percent for UHPLC systems, he added.

"In these days, I think it's important that customers have a reason to replace their [systems], so either they have to come up with an instrument that can do more than ever before," or it will allow researchers to do things more productively," he said.

Agilent also introduced the Zorbax Rapid Resolution High Definition columns for the new platform. New hardware design and packaging processes result in rugged and reliable performance, Agilent said. The columns are available in Zorbax-bonded phases, providing flexibility and scalability between Agilent instruments.

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