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IonSpec to Offer Hybrid FTMS Soon; Marketing with Waters Not Clear Yet

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With great fanfare, Thermo Electron and Bruker Daltonics unveiled their respective hybrid Fourier Transform mass spectrometers at this year’s Pittcon conference in March, emphasizing their applications in proteomics. Now another version of this novel mass spectrometer species, developed by Waters and IonSpec, appears to be close to market, according to one of the two partners.

Jeffrey McIver, director of marketing for IonSpec, told ProteoMonitor last week that his company is hoping to release the new instrument at or soon after the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) conference in Montreal next month. “We actually already have our first order for it,” McIver said. The order is from a Canadian private company, and the instrument will probably be shipped later this summer. In March, Waters had told ProteoMonitor that the new instrument would be “at least a year away.” (see PM 3-17-03).

Back in August, Waters and IonSpec, a small manufacturer of high-end Fourier Transform mass spectrometers based in Lake Forest, Calif., announced their intention to co-develop a hybrid FTMS instrument, combining Waters’ Z Spray ion source and quadrupole front end with IonSpec’s Fourier Transform analyzer back end, and controlling it through Waters’ MassLynx software. Back then, the two partners were anticipating introducing the new instrument in the first quarter of 2003.

The first outcome of this collaboration, however, was the non-hybrid HiResZSP Fourier Transform mass spectrometer, which lacks the quadrupole analyzer. This system was introduced by IonSpec in January but is currently not marketed by Waters. “The difference with the new hybrid instrument is that it will go from the Waters Z Spray source into an actual triple-quad, something along the lines of a [Micromass] Quattro micro,” said McIver.

The hybrid instrument, to be called IonSpec Q-FT, will be available with a choice of four different magnets, at 4.7-, 7-, 9.4-, or 12-Tesla magnetic field strength, and will cost between $500,000 and over $1.5 million, he said. The instrument’s resolution can exceed 800,000 on a 9.4-Tesla magnet, its mass accuracy is less than 1 ppm with external calibration at m/z 1,000, and its sensitivity will be in the attomol range. However, he did not specify whether this performance is reached under typical LC/MS running conditions. The machine will also be available with various dissociation techniques, including electron capture dissociation, he said. “These can all be done simultaneously through a new type of design that we have for doing the ECD and IRMPD.” The company will furthermore offer as an option an AP-MALDI source on the same vacuum system as the Z Spray source. The standard configuration will be two independent vacuum systems on the same magnet, one equipped with a MALDI source, the other one with an electrospray source. “We are selling two totally separate and independent mass spectrometers in that one package deal with the one magnet,” said McIver. In addition to offering Waters’ MassLynx software, IonSpec is also hoping to license software developed at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation to interpret top-down data from ECD.

According to Don Hunt of the University of Virginia, who co-developed Thermo’s LTQ FT hybrid, the use of Waters’ well-known MassLynx software and the ECD capability make the IonSpec/Waters instrument especially appealing to users.

Both the FTMS and the hybrid FTMS instrument result from the collaboration between IonSpec and Waters’ Micromass subsidiary in Manchester, UK. The launch date for the hybrid instrument was delayed because “it was a little bit more work than we first anticipated,” Iver said. However, a marketing agreement between the two companies has not yet been worked out, and negotiations are still ongoing. “We are in active discussions with IonSpec,” said Brian Smith, senior director for pharmaceutical and life sciences market development at Waters. “We have to work out a strategy where both companies are satisfied with the arrangements.”

But while IonSpec appears to be keen to sell the new instrument in any case, having access to Waters’ marketing muscle would certainly make it easier to compete with the sales teams of Bruker and Thermo. Bruker said it had already sold three of its Apex-Q instruments, which couple a Q-q front end with an 9.4-Tesla or a 12-Tesla magnet FT analyzer and sell for $1.2 million and $2 million, respectively. Thermo will start shipping its linear ion trap Fourier Transform hybrid, equipped with a 7-Tesla magnet and priced at $750,000, in September. McIver said IonSpec would market the new hybrid machine for proteomics and small molecule applications, targeting especially the pharmaceutical industry.

According to a Bruker spokesperson, the new competition validates the growing importance of Fourier Transform mass spectrometry for proteomics applications.

— JK

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