ORLANDO, Fla. —Varian announced the availability of the world's first 15-Tesla Fourier transform mass spec system during Pittcon this week, while Agilent, Thermo Electron, and ABI showcased their own recently released mass specs.
Equipped with the strongest magnetic field magnet commercially available, Varian's instrument costs about $2 million, according to IonSpec, its developer. Varian acquired IonSpec last month.
"The resolution of an FTMS improves linearly relative to magnetic field strength, while mass accuracy and dynamic range increase by the square relative to field strength," said Jeffrey McIver, senior FTMS product manager for IonSpec. "People who would want to buy this are a select handful of high-end researchers who are pushing the limit of technology."
The instrument's mass accuracy and resolution make it particularly suitable for the analysis of large biomolecules, such as in top-down proteomics, and for the analysis of complex samples, such as plasma and serum, that have large dynamic ranges, McIver said.
One Varian 15 T FTMS has already been installed in the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Fla., said McIver. It takes about 12 months for the instrument to be delivered after it has been ordered, mainly because manufacturing the magnet takes a long time, he added.
"People who would want to buy [Varian's 15-Tesla FTMS] are a select handful of high-end researchers who are pushing the limit of technology."
Prior to Varian's new launch, the highest magnetic strength FTMS commercially available was a 12 T instrument, said McIver.
However, Bruker CEO Frank Laukien said that his company had installed a 14.5 T FTMS, also in the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. The instrument was a "special order," he said.
Also at Pittcon, Agilent touted its 6000 series, which includes a Q-TOF, a TOF, an ion trap, a triple quad, and a single quad (see ProteoMonitor 2/2/2006); Thermo Electron showcased its new Finnigan LXQ linear ion trap; and ABI peddled its QSTAR Elite Q-TOF.
Taia Ergueta, Agilent's general manager of mass spectrometry, said that the 6410 triple quad — which Agilent says is priced "30 to 50 percent lower than comparable instruments" — is especially popular. "People are waiting at the gates to buy them," she said.
Ergueta added that customers are buying Agilent's new instruments without having seen a demo. "It's gratifying because it shows that they trust us with specs," she said.
Agilent will soon be setting up demo sites in Little Falls, Del.; Waldbronn, Germany; and Beijing, Ergueta said.
Asked if Agilent is planning to expand into the FTMS market, however, she said that "some of these esoteric levels [of mass spec] are not necessary."
Agilent's TOFs are "benchmarking favorably" with FTMS in terms of results, and they are significantly cheaper, she said.
Ergueta also said that Agilent is content to stay out of the MALDI-TOF market for now.
"I'm very comfortable with our [current mass spec] portfolio," she said. "Now we can concentrate on applications and software."
Thermo showcased its recently launched ion traps as its star products.
The LTQ Orbitrap, launched at last year's ASMS conference in June (see ProteoMonitor 6/10/2005), has a mass resolution of 60,000, which is five times that of a TOF, according to Ian Jardine, vice president of global research and development for Thermo.
In addition, it has a mass accuracy of 1 ppm to 2 ppm, which is five times better than the TOF; a dynamic range that is four orders of magnitude better than the TOF; and a scan speed of five spectra per second, which makes it compatible with high-speed LC systems, such as Waters' Acquity UPLC.
"The instrument is superior to the TOF system for MSn," said Jardine.
Jardine also billed its Finnigan LXQ linear ion trap, launched at the end of 2005, as superior to 3D ion traps.
Linear, or 2D ion traps, can hold more ions than 3D traps, explained Lester Taylor, director of global product marketing for Thermo's life sciences division. That results in faster scans and higher sensitivity. In addition, linear traps produce fewer errors in mass measurement than 3D traps, Taylor said.
Frank Laukien, president and CEO of Bruker Daltonics, disagreed, however. "The new high-capacity 3D traps are the fastest, highest-dynamic range, and most sensitive on the market today," he said.
Taylor declined to give a price for the LXQ, but said that it costs significantly less than the LTQ-FT, which costs about $800,000, and the LTQ Orbitrap, which costs about $625,000.
"[The LXQ] has a simplified design," said Taylor. "It's similar in performance, but it's not quite as sensitive."
ABI's LC/MS senior product manager, Julia Wingate, billed the new QSTAR Elite Q-TOF, which was launched in January (see ProteoMonitor 1/12/2006), as an improvement over the company's previous QSTAR XL system in terms of sensitivity, resolution, mass accuracy, linear dynamic range, and speed of MS and MS/MS acquisition. She declined to compare the instrument to competing vendors' instruments.
The QSTAR Elite has a sub-3 ppm mass accuracy, and a scan speed of 20 spectra per second in full-scan MS mode, and seven MS/MS spectra per second in automated information-dependent acquisition mode, Wingate said. To improve sensitivity, the instrument has a new, optional ion cooler guide feature.
"For protein biomarker profiling experiments, this is an ideal instrument," said Wingate.
Wingate said that she did not want to give a price quote for QSTAR Elite, but that the instrument is "ballpark in the same price, but a little bit more expensive" than the previous QSTAR XL system.
Other Proteomic Debuts at Pittcon
Aside from mass specs, other new proteomic products that debuted at Pittcon this week (see new products table) include Cerno Bioscience's MassWorks software for improving mass accuracy; the MALDI Molecular Imager by Bruker, which combines MALDI-TOF mass spec technology with histological tissue imaging to allow for monitoring of the spatial distribution of molecules such as biomarkers in tissue sections; new UPLC-based solutions by Waters that focus on amino acid analysis and peptide mapping; the PTMscan electron transfer dissociation module by Bruker, designed to be applied to the HCT ultra high-capacity ion trap; and the Apollo II Dual Source by Bruker, which allows for simultaneous integration of MALDI and electrospray ionization sources into Bruker's apex line of hybrid Q-q-FTMS mass specs.
— Tien-Shun Lee ([email protected])