Despite early predictions that the market for mass spectrometers could be among the hardest hit by the economic nosedive, sales of the instruments have been able to weather the topsy-turvy environment, and in some cases thrive.
And according to officials from several mass spec firms at the American Society for Mass Spectrometry meeting, the outlook for the technology is much more promising than some had predicted — with proteomics and other life science applications looking like a particular bright spot.
As 2009 approaches its midway point, mass spec vendors may not be exactly celebrating sales results. Indeed, almost all the major manufacturers recently reported that first-quarter revenues for the instruments were down year over year. However, amid earlier reports that the cratering economy could significantly pull down that business, the effects of the downturn have been in actuality relatively mild.
For example, in the most recent round of earnings releases, Life Technologies division Applied Biosystems — which, along with its joint-venture partner MDS, forms the world's biggest mass spec vendor — reports a 5 percent decline year over year in mass-spec revenues during its first quarter ended in March, better than company executives had expected.
Meanwhile, the CEO of its main competitor in mass specs, Marijn Dekkers of Thermo Fisher Scientific, says that though its mass spec and chromatography business remained under pressure, it still performed better than the rest of the company's instrument business, although the firm did not disclose any figures.
Officials from two other major vendors reported growth in their mass spec businesses for the most recent earnings season: Bruker CEO Frank Laukien says that first-quarter mass-spec sales increased by double digits, compared to a year ago, and Agilent Technologies' CEO Bill Sullivan reports that sales of the company's LC-MS platforms and microarrays were up 30 percent year over year even as company-wide revenues slid 25 percent.
— Tony Fong
Thermo Fisher Scientific's Biomarker Research Initiatives in Mass Spectrometry Center is teaming up with NextGen Sciences to add new technologies to NextGen's biomarker services, which are based on a mass spectrometry approach called selected reaction monitoring.
Owlstone Nanotech is collaborating with Agilent Technologies to develop Owlstone's field-asymmetric ion mobility spectrometry filter as a front-end separation module for Agilent's time-of-flight mass spectrometers.
Caprion Proteomics is working with Applied Biosystems to verify and validate protein biomarker candidates for use in the clinic. Caprion is using the QTRAP technology to develop multiple reaction monitoring assays.
Amount of funding from the Novo Nordisk Foundation for the University of Copenhagen's new Center for Protein Research
Label-Free Microarray Profiling of Phosphoinositide-PDZ Domain Interactions
Grantee: Quan Jason Cheng, University of California, Riverside.
Began: Apr. 1, 2009; Ends: Mar. 31, 2011
Cheng will study phosphoinositides, which regulate nuclear function and membrane trafficking and are linked to cancer and type 2 diabetes, and their interactions with PDZ domains. He plans to develop microarray templates with SiOx-coated surface plasmon resonance chips and then study the lipid-protein interactions.
Analysis of Redox Modulated Signaling Networks in Response to Ionizing Radiation
Grantee: Cristina Furdui, Wake Forest University Medical Center
Began: May 1, 2009; Ends: Feb. 28, 2014
Frudui will "investigate the redox regulation of signaling networks that control tumor growth and the response to radiation and drug therapies." She will use proteomics and molecular probes followed by computational methods to evaluate the data. Then, she plans to uncover targets of protein oxidation and protein phosphorylation.