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Waters Unveils Q-TOF Synapt for Those Not Yet Ready to Commit to HDMS Model

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Reaching out to researchers who may be straddling the fence about whether to buy its Synapt HDMS platform, Waters this week launched its Synapt MS system, a quadrupole orthogonal acceleration, time-of-flight instrument that can be upgraded to HDMS mode.
 
The company hopes the new system will lure customers not ready to invest in the firm’s flagship Synapt HDMS, launched in 2006, which enables researchers to analyze molecules based on their size, shape, and charge, as well as mass [See PM 06/01/06].
 
The Synapt MS, which retails for between $450,000 and $500,000, “offers a very facile route to the full high-definition capability” of the Synapt HDMS, which costs between $570,000 to $670,000, Alan Millar, a program manager for Waters, told ProteoMonitor this week. “This is something that our customers have requested for some time.
 
“You can buy Synapt MS and be very comfortable in the fact that as your needs change, as HDMS spreads into different application areas, if that looks appealing to you, you can very easily upgrade the system to full high-definition capability mass spectrometry,” he said.
 
The Synapt MS, which will begin shipping this quarter, serves as a transition between Waters’ MALDI Q-Tof Premier mass spec and the Synapt HDMS, which has both Q-TOF and HDMS capability. Once a Synapt MS is upgraded to full HDMS capability, a researcher will also be able to switch between Q-TOF and HDMS mode. Both the new Synapt platform and the Synapt HDMS can be configured as MALDI systems.
 
While Millar acknowledged the Synapt MS could cannibalize Synapt HDMS sales, he said that the company believes the new system will drive new customers to the more powerful platform.
 
“Maybe for those people who are not quite ready yet to make the transition, we can now offer them the Synapt MS, which … has the ability to upgrade in the future,” Millar said.
 
Both Synapt systems are primarily targeted to proteomics research, Millar said, but with the HDMS, “increasingly metabolite profiling and small-molecule profiling [are] areas where we see significant growth.”
 

“You can buy Synapt MS and be very comfortable in the fact that as your needs change, as HDMS spreads into different application areas, if that looks appealing to you, you can very easily upgrade the system to full high-definition capability mass spectrometry.”

Despite the Synapt MS launch, Waters’ mass-spec ambitions remain with the Synapt HDMS. [See related story this issue]. Early HDMS adopters were “high-end” academics pushing the boundaries of their research, Millar said. More recently the customer base has included pharmaceutical and biotech firms. Early HDMS adopters were “high-end” academics pushing the boundaries of their research, Millar said. More recently the customer base has included pharmaceutical and biotech firms.
 
“What we saw last year, particularly in the Synapt High Definition Mass Spec, was really a dramatic swing in the demographics of our customers … [to where it]  was adopted into our mainstream markets,” he said. 
 
While most researchers who have bought the Synapt HDMS did so specifically to work in HDMS mode, some regularly use the system for Q-TOF work, Millar said.
 
For example, some pharma clients will do standard protein profiling with Q-TOF then switch to HDMS when they introduce an extra dimension of sample separation to glean additional data, he said.
 
The Synapt MS represents the latest step in Water’s attempt to rebuild its mass-spec business after the company paid Applied Biosystems, MDS Sciex and ABI parent company Applera more than $74 million in damages and settlement fees in connection to litigation over claims that Waters and its former subsidiary Micromass had infringed on some of ABI/MDS Sciex’s mass-spec patents [See PM 03/19/04].
 
The drawn-out litigation forced Waters to withdraw several mass specs off the US market and left the division scrambling to replenish its portfolio. Two years ago, it jumped back into the market with a new triple-quadrupole instrument, targeted at the applied markets, and a single-quadrupole MS.
 
Company officials said that sales of HDMS grew by more than 20 percent during the fourth quarter while the triple-quad sold “very well,” but sales of the single-quad fell short of expectations due to tough pharmaceutical sales. Waters did not elaborate.

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