CHICAGO – At Pittcon this week, Thermo Fisher Scientific pushed an instrument that it said will eventually change how proteomics research is done. Nearby a competitor with newly surging proteomic ambitions reiterated its commitment to protein research in its new business model.
Pittcon, equal parts trade show, Wall Street analyst meeting, and schmooza palooza, is not the traditional venue to launch major new instruments and tools; such announcements are usually reserved for the American Society of Mass Spectrometry conference, which occurs this year in June.
Below are highlights from this year’s Pittcom meeting, which hosted more than 21,000 conferees, including vendors, researchers, poster presenters, and media.
While product launches during the week by proteomics vendors were mostly limited to consumables, Bruker bucked the trend and launched a new Fourier transform mass spec at the conference, the apex-ultra FTMS.
"This is sort of the ultimate [tool] for top-down proteomics," said CEO Frank Laukien. "It has the higher performance, higher resolution than any other FTMS on the market, even at 7 Tesla, and even more so at the higher magnetic field strengths.
"It really has all the tools built in, from the high front mass range that other systems don't have, to the mass-selective ion enrichment combined with the [electron capture dissociation] tools, and the algorithms to make it a very useable research system for top-down proteomics," Laukien said.
The instrument's refrigerated FTMS magnet technology is available as an option at 7, 9.4, 12 and 15 Tesla.
According to the company, the instrument features improved mass accuracy and resolving power and uses Bruker's Infinity analyzer cell and Sidekick ion accumulation system. It is capable of sub-ppm mass accuracy and resolving powers of greater than 900,000 at megahertz 400 at 7 Tesla, or greater than 1.5 million at megahertz 400 at 9.4 Tesla.
Thermo Fisher Scientific
The newly minted company formed by the merger of Thermo Electron and Fisher Scientific used Pittcon as an opportunity to highlight its LTQ XL mass spec with electron transfer dissociation capability.
Though competitors such as Agilent Technologies and Bruker have 3D ion trap mass specs with ETD capability, Thermo said the LTQ XL is the only linear ion trap with such capability. Because of its design, the LTQ XL allows researchers to switch from ETD to collision induced dissociation techniques, something difficult to manage on the 3D device, Thermo said [See PM 02/22/07].
The result is that researchers conducting ETD experiments can identify more peptides and phosphorylation sites more easily than with other instruments with ETD capability, according to Ian Jardine, vice president of global research and development at Thermo.
ETD is a method that is still comparatively new in the proteomics community, but Jardine predicted that in two years all major proteomic labs will be using ETD methods, and in three to five years, all proteomic experiments will be done with ETD.
Thermo CEO Marijn Dekkers said that though the company will be known as Thermo Fisher Scientific, it will be branded separately as Thermo Scientific and Fisher Scientific to accentuate the different — and complementary — businesses: Thermo's instrument, equipment, and consumables focus and Fisher's chemistry, distribution, and services expertise.
Marc Casper, executive vice president and vice president of analytical technologies at Thermo Fisher, said that the firm remains committed to R&D. In 2006, 29 percent of the company’s revenues were generated from products launched during the prior two years, up from 23 percent in 2005 and nearly double the 15 percent it posted in 2003.
In 2006, Agilent pushed out its new 1200 Series Rapid Resolution LC and an army of new mass specs. The result from the new instrument launches was a windfall. During the quarter ended Jan. 31, the company saw LC sales grow 21 percent while its LC/MS systems grew 108 percent year-over-year, according to Chris van Ingen, president of the Bio-Analytical measurement division at Agilent.
"It really has all the tools built in from the high front mass range that other systems don't have, to the mass selective ion enrichment combined with the [electron capture dissociation] tools, and the algorithms to make it a very useable research system for top-down proteomics."
As the company moves ahead in its new iteration as a pure-play instrument firm, officials have said recently that it will aggressively seek to expand its proteomics business. This week van Ingen repeated that message. Despite the doubling of its LC/MS sales figures, van Ingen said: "We're not done yet. We're looking to expand our triple quad and Q TOFs."
In June at ASMS, he hinted that Agilent will launch a new LC/MS system.
In the LC space, Nick Roelofs, general manager of life sciences, said that its 1200 LC "is bringing technological advantages over our expectations." The company is heavily pushing its HPLC chip, which could significantly increase its LC business, he added.
The company also has a goal to become the market leader in HPLC consumable sales. Van Ingen said it is currently third and has placed a three-year time frame to achieve that goal.
The company's Synapt high definition mass spectrometer, launched at ASMS last June, made its Pittcon debut this year.
"Synapt HDMS will be to mass spectrometry what Acquity is to LC," said Mary Ellen Goffredo, senior director for systems marketing at Waters, referring to the company’s Acquity ultra performance liquid chromatographer.
A company official recently said there are about 2,000 of the Acquity instruments installed, compared to a total of 200,000 HPLCs, regardless of the manufacturer. This week, Rohit Khanna, vice president of worldwide marketing for Waters, said that while HPLCs still have a strong hold on the LC market and researchers have been slow to make the shift to the UPLC instrument, he expects that shift to occur over the next few years.
The company made no new product announcements at Pittcon. It announced, however, separate deals with Shimadzu and Hitachi High Technologies to develop software that would allow their LC systems to be controlled with Waters' chromatography software.
Shimadzu will collaborate with Waters to develop software allowing Shimadzu's Prominence series LC system to use Waters' Empower chromatography software. Meantime, Hitachi will work with Waters to create software allowing for control of Hitachi's LaChrom Elite HPLC with Waters' Empower 2 software. Terms of the agreements were not disclosed.