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New LC Releases Emphasize Cross-Platform Compatibility, Bio-Inert Capabilities

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By Adam Bonislawski

With HPLC 2010 taking place in Boston this week, several liquid chromatography vendors including Agilent, Waters, and Dionex launched new products with an emphasis on cross-platform flexibility and bio-inert capability — a feature that is expected to be of particular interest to studies of large proteins.

Both Agilent and Dionex touted the compatibility of their new releases with pre-existing products and Agilent and Waters each introduced new instruments able to perform high pressure runs under bio-inert conditions.

Agilent introduced its new 1200 Infinity Series – a portfolio of three machines that are compatible with its existing 1100 and 1200 lines. The portfolio comprises the 1220 Inifinity LC, the 1260 Infinity LC, and an enhanced version of the 1290 Infinity LC, which the company first launched in April of 2009.

Last year's release of the 1290 was seen by many as an attempt to compete with Waters' Acquity platform, which has generally been recognized as the standard for ultra high-performance LC instruments. These latest releases are designed to offer a range of HPLC, RRLC, and UHPLC options across a standardized platform "to match any application or budget," Patrick Kaltenbach, vice president and general manger of Agilent's liquid phase separations business, said in a statement.

"We're basically building on a concept that we standardize all our pumping systems on a 600 bar standard," Helmut Schulenberg-Schell, marketing manager for LC at Agilent, told ProteoMonitor. "That's the minimum pressure we deliver with all the [1200 Infinity] systems, which gives basically a 10x productivity over conventional HPLC instruments – and in addition we put 80 Hz detectors with it, which gives us the ability to detect masses at a much higher rate."

The 1220 is the entry-level model of the new 1200 series, with prices starting around $15,000. It offers a 600 bar power range at up to 5 mL/min and up to 10 mL/min at lower pressure. The 1260 also offers a 600 bar power range and includes the new 1260 Infinity Diode Array Detector, which increases UV sensitivity by 10-fold, allowing more accurate peak detection and integration, the company said in a statement. The new 1290 offers a 1200 bar power range along with 160 Hz detection speed and carry-over performance of less than 10 ppm.

The new instruments are slated to go on sale at the beginning of July with shipping starting at the end of July.

When Agilent launched the 1290 last year, it said it was the first system that delivered the foundations for method transferability between any UHPLC and HPLC system (PM 4/30/2009). In an online presentation accompanying the 1200 series launch, Michael Frank, product manager of HPLC systems and solutions at Agilent, said that in 2011 the company will release software enabling the 1290 to emulate any other system from Agilent's 1100 and 1200 product lines, allowing total method reproducibility across the platforms. Researchers will be able to "select any other LC to be emulated by a simple mouse click," he said.

Dionex also focused on cross-platform compatibility this week, announcing that it was introducing UHPLC compatibility across the full range of its HPLC products. The company is adding UHPLC capability to all of its basic automated and standard HPLC platforms under the name UHPLC+, a move that will allow for "UHPLC performance at standard HPLC costs," it said in a statement.

Agilent promoted its new 1200 series as offering UHPLC analysis at HPLC prices, as well. Noting that the 1220 and 1260 shared parts and technology with the higher-end 1290 model, Frank said, "these new features that allow you to benefit from fast analysis, faster turnaround times, and higher sensitivities come at an HPLC price."

Additionally, Frank said that the service costs of the 1290 had been reduced on March 1 by 30 percent, bringing them down to the standard HPLC service cost level, He said this discount was due to that instrument's increased parts lifetime and longer maintenance intervals.

Agilent also announced the launch of a bio-inert version of its 1260 Infinity Quaternary LC. Priced roughly 10 percent to 15 percent above the standard 1260, the bio-inert version features an entirely metal-free sample-flow path and a stainless steel-free solvent delivery path.

"What we're offering is a completely bio-inert sample-flow path so that the samples aren't seeing any metal," Martin Vollmer, project manager for LC at Agilent, told ProteoMonitor. "What's really new is that you can do that at UHPLC pressure – up to 600 bar. Current systems that are bio-inert either have titanium surfaces that aren't always good for proteins, for example phosphoproteins, or they have peak pressures of around 400 bar."

Waters introduced its own bio-inert UHPLC platform this week with the launch of the Acquity UPLC H-Class Bio System, which features an iron-free flow path and low-dispersion nickel-cobalt tubing capable of withstanding UHPLC pressure levels.

"In the HPLC world a lot of the customers doing protein characterization have standardized non-stainless steel systems. So there was demand from our customers. But the question was how do you make it a non-stainless steel system but keep it as a true UHPLC?" Jeff Mazzeo, Water's biopharmaceutical business director, told ProteoMonitor.

These instruments will be particularly useful for the analysis of large biomolecules like monoclonal antibodies, cutting run times for such samples from up to an hour and a half down to as little as five to ten minutes, Vollmer said.

"Previously the analysis of biomolecules was the domain of low-pressure chromatography systems," Schulenberg-Schell said. "Now we are providing more tools derived from high-pressure liquid chromatography to address it."

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