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Mass Spec Vendors Offer Takes on Top-Down Proteomics, UHPLC at UBS Conference

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Several mass spec vendors presented this week at the UBS Global Life Sciences Conference in New York City, offering information on various aspects of their businesses, including portions of their proteomics portfolios.

Bruker addressed its proteomics business most directly, with CEO Frank Laukien highlighting the release of the company's new amaZon speed and amaZon speed ETD ion trap mass spectrometers this month at the Human Proteome Organization's annual meeting in Geneva.

According to Laukien, the new instruments are intended to facilitate and capitalize on proteomics' ongoing move beyond traditional peptide-based bottom-up workflows toward top-down and middle-down analysis of intact proteins.

"Proteomics is really expanding very broadly and really needs new tools for new capabilities," he said, "not just more of the same at a lower price point or a higher throughput."

The amaZon speed, he added, "provides pretty fundamentally new capabilities to provide very sensitive, very robust [proteomics] analysis that really addresses the key questions in therapeutics, diagnostics, and biological function. Those [capabilities] go toward post-translational modifications [like] phosphorylation and glycosylation [as well as] top-down and middle-down sequencing. And that really goes beyond the capabilities of the traditional bottom-up proteomics."

Bruker has traditionally been a leader in top- and middle-down proteomics; however, the release of Thermo Fisher Scientific's new Orbitrap Elite machine at the American Society for Mass Spectrometry's annual meeting in June represented a potential challenge to that position (PM 7/1/2011).

Thermo Fisher chief financial officer Pete Wilver touched on the company's ASMS releases during his UBS presentation, noting that it has received a record number of demo releases for the new mass spec instruments, which, in addition to the Orbitrap Elite, include the Q Exactive – a quadrupole Orbitrap hybrid designed to compete in the Q-TOF market.

Wilver also discussed the company's hopes for its acquisition of LC firm Dionex, noting that it hoped to raise the attach rate of its mass spectrometers to its LC systems to the 75 to 80 percent range – up from the current 50 percent rate.

LC was likewise a focus of Agilent's presentation, with Nick Roelofs, president of the company's Life Sciences group, observing that it was Agilent's single largest business.

Roelofs cited the continuing conversion of HPLC methods to UHPLC methods as the biggest trend in the LC market. He predicted that over the next five years, roughly 85 percent of HPLC methods will transfer to UHPLC, and said the industry was at the end of the first year of a two- to two-and-a-half-year technology refresh that was driving strong growth in the LC market.

According to Roelofs, Agilent's LC business has been growing at solid double-digit rates and at twice the rate of the industry overall for the last four quarters.

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