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Shimadzu Takes Aim at North American Life Sci Space with Proteomic Debuts at Pittcon

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NEW ORLEANS — Shimadzu has made its debut into the North American life-science market by launching several new instruments, including those for proteomics research, at the Pittsburgh Conference held here this week.
 
The company’s North American subsidiary, Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, unveiled several new instruments, including a revamped line of AXIMA mass spectrometers [see related story, this issue] and two liquid chromatographers: the Prominence nano HPLC and the Prominence UFLCXR.
 
“Many people had been aware of Shimadzu Biotech, but not really sure of what [we] sold,” said Scott Kuzdzal, who joined the company less than a month ago as its biotech manager. He came to Shimadzu from PerkinElmer, where he was technology leader for molecular medicine in its Life and Analytical Sciences division, and was hired specifically to help in the company’s push into life sciences.
 
“A lot of people associate Shimazdu with HPLC and GC and know that the instrumentation is very good, very durable, has very good service,” he said. “But what we want to do now is start expanding our life sciences offerings.”
 
In particular, Columbia, Md.-based Shimadzu is looking at North America as a growth market in life sciences, Kuzdzal said. The company has a strong presence in its home country of Japan, and Europe has become one of its most fertile markets with particular strength in the ion trap TOFs and MALDI mass specs, he said. But in North America, Shimadzu has operated largely under the radar and is perhaps best known as the place where Koichi Tanaka, the 2002 Nobel laureate for chemistry, works.
 
The company has always had the instruments and resources to be a bigger life-sciences player, Kuzdzal said, “and my goal now is to bring all these tools together into a better life-science offering.”
 
Shimadzu Scientific Instruments currently employs around 340 people. Sometime within the next two years, it plans to open a California applications laboratory to better serve West Coast customers and facilitate easier travel with its parent firm in Kyoto, Kuzdzal said.
 
Last April, Takeshi Kawami was named president of Shimadzu Scientific Instruments. With a background in sales in the parent firm, Kawami represented a shift in the company’s management practice of almost exclusively promoting people with backgrounds as chemists.
 

“Many people had been aware of Shimadzu Biotech, but not really sure of what [we] sold.”

From a proteomics standpoint, the firm’s renewed vigor in the life-science market has been evident primarily with the release of its AXIMA MALDI mass spectrometers. In addition, the company recently launched the CHIP chemical printer for MALDI tissue analysis. Rather than launching stand-alone instruments, Shimadzu’s strategy is to introduce systems that are linked together to enable a more efficient workflow that can produce better results, Kuzdzal said.
 
“After a decade now of proteomics, [the industry doesn’t] have better biomarkers for the clinical laboratory, and I think … we’re getting a little bit wiser about the way we integrate the technologies,” he said. “If we can go to the tissue source directly instead of looking in human serum, we can identify things from that tissue using a tissue imaging platform. And once we have identified them as potential biomarkers, then we can build traditional assays, like immunoassays, to screen for them.”
 
On the liquid chromatography front, the nano HPLC provides advanced flow-rate precision in the nano flow-rate range allowing for gradient analysis, according to the company. Low flow rates are delivered by two LC-20AD nano pumps, independently controlled by feedback from integrated high-precision nano flow sensors.
 
According to Kuzdzal, the instrument does pre-mixing in a reflux manner. As a result it reuses anything that is typically split off during an LC run.
 
“By refluxing you can conserve your reagent,” Kudzal said.
 
Meanwhile, the UFLCXR is an ultra-fast liquid chromatographer with extra resolution, the company said. It can handle systems pressure of up to 9,500 psi, and unlike other high-pressure systems, the UFLCXR delivers data with “high integrity” and reproducibility, according to Shimadzu. The system is up to 10 times faster than a conventional HPLC system using a 5 micromolar particle column.
 
The company also released its MCE-202 MultiNA automated electrophoresis system. While the system is for analysis of DNA and RNA samples, Kuzdzal said protein researchers will find it useful as well.
Scientists who work with proteins and peptides “typically have the gel electrophoresis equipment in the corner of their laboratories to do a quick check,” Kudzal said. “This one box replaces all of that.”
 
The MultiNA is the centerpiece of a new movement at the company to develop “small footprint” instruments that allow researchers to do things that would ordinarily take up an entire laboratory. That effort is focused now on chip electrophoresis development, but in the future that “may expand to many instruments that are in this small footprint,” Kuzdzal said, without elaborating.
 
“What it all boils down to is sample complexity reduction,” he said. “Whether you’re talking about DNA and RNA … or you’re talking about high-mass proteins for MALDI analysis or even metabolite identification with the ion-trap TOF, what Shimadzu is going to do is change the way the researchers not only separate and enrich the samples, but also interact with the informatics. So we’re going to work with systems that begin to tie everything together.”

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