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A Step Towards Democratization in Mass Spectrometry: Agilent Launch Novel "Self-aware" Mass Detector

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The annual ASMS conference has traditionally focused on the scientific breakthroughs enabled by high-end and high-performance mass spectrometry (MS) instrumentation. This year, however, at the 67th ASMS conference, there was a noticeable shift in focus. Democratization was the word of the event. But how can vendors ensure their technologies are less complex, and therefore available to a wider range of users, without compromising on the quality of data?

For Agilent, this democratization could be seen with the launch of a new mass detector, the InfinityLab Liquid Chromatography (LC)/Mass Selective Detector iQ system. Boasting "self-aware” technology that reduces training time by 69%, Agilent are clearly looking to get users (and laboratories) up and running quickly.

To learn more about this new system and what it offers labs, we spoke to two members of the Agilent team, Jennifer Gushue, Director of Product Marketing, Mass Spectrometry Division and Nathan Eno, R&D Project Manager, Quadrupole LC/MS.

Ash Board (AB): Agilent launched the InfinityLab LC/MSD iQ System at ASMS 2019. Can you tell us more about the system and who it is aimed at?

A: MS is a powerful technology that provides direct mass information. Historically, MS was used by experts trained in the field. However, through collaborating closely with our liquid chromatography customers, we understand that scientists and users with other areas of scientific expertise just wanted to understand more about their samples and run their business more efficiently without having to invest a lot of time to learn MS. Many were already using LC separation with UV detection, or other indirect measurement technologies such as ELISAs which did not yield the level of detailed insights they were hoping for.

In order to address these customers’ challenges, the InfinityLab LC/MSD iQ is a complete single quadrupole mass spectrometer designed with specific features in its hardware and software to address the MS non-experts who are looking for the level of analytical detail that comes from mass information, and who need a system that is intuitive and automated.

AB: How does a mass detector differ to a mass spectrometer?

A: A mass selective detector combines the power of molecular detection and identification that a single quadrupole provides with software that automates the setup of parameters for data acquisition and simplifies the analysis of the data post-analysis so that the required level of expertise and training is much lower. A mass detector is optimized for the analysis of simpler sample types where the full horsepower of a mass spectrometer is not required.

AB: Who are the intended users of the mass detector and how has this influenced the design/ creation process?

A: The intended users of the LC/MSD iQ are those who are new to mass spec, and who are looking for mass information, combined with a small instrument footprint. The system includes intelligent capabilities that are self-aware and self-controlling. The system applies to any market that requires these features, but most notably pharma, academia and food production.

For example, one of the concerns we heard from users looking to start using MS, is that they weren’t sure if the system was operating at its peak performance when they were ready to analyze their samples. In other words, monitoring and troubleshooting were seen as challenges. To address these concerns, the LC/MSD iQ now has an instrument health tracking capability. Similar to your health fitness tracker, it contains a visual dashboard of the state and usage of the mass detector and provides feedback that the system is healthy and ready to run. We also provide a mix of chemical standards that can be used to perform an analysis of the LC and the MS system to determine if it is ready and has suitable performance for analyses. This system suitability test can be run daily or weekly at a scheduled time, e.g. early in the morning, so that users can be confident that their system is ready for use and that they will not encounter any instrument issues when they run their analysis.

A second pain point was the expertise that was previously required to develop a mass spec method. In the past, experts had to know the physics of how a mass spec operated to set parameters that controlled how the ions were made in the ion source and transmitted through the mass analyzer. To ease this burden for new users, we wanted the LC/MS method setup to be easy, so we developed an innovative approach called Auto Acquire, which automatically sets the mass spec method parameters based on the LC conditions and the mass of interest.

Finally, we chose to deploy the LC/MSD iQ with Agilent’s OpenLab CDS, our newest software solution that provides time-saving steps in the analysis, interpretation, and reporting workflows, so LC/MSD iQ users can leverage the advanced features in OpenLab CDS to identify key information faster and improve turnaround time.

AB: Why have Agilent chosen to launch a mass detector?

A: Through our Pharma Lab Leader survey, we recognized that 85% of respondents saw an opportunity to get more information out of their data and we realized that we could help them achieve that extra level of detail by using mass selective detection. However, in order to do that we needed to remove the accompanying pain associated with having to learn a new and complex technology in depth.

AB: The system boasts “designed-in” smart features, can you tell us more about these and how they benefit users?

A: By listening to the needs of pharma lab leaders, we know that 83% are looking for an optimized workflow, with obtaining reliable and accurate instrumentation being the best way for them to overcome these challenges in workflow. So, when designing the LC/MSD iQ we focused on features that could maximize instrument usage and deliver productivity gains in data analysis.

Designed-in smart features include sensors that characterize, adjust and report the instrument’s state. When a sensor detects an approaching “out of tolerance” state, it predicts and reports that routine maintenance is needed. This allows the lab leader to plan optimally and perform the maintenance at a time when it has the least impact on the lab’s operation. Our goal is to maximize uptime for the lab to provide the maximum return on investment. One of the other smart features designed in is the ability of the LC/MSD iQ to detect the LC chromatography conditions and then use the new Auto Acquire feature, which automatically sets the MS method parameters based on the LC conditions and the mass of interest.

AB: How is this mass detector different from others available on the market?

A: The InfinityLab LC/MSD iQ is unique in its ability to deliver a simplified user experience for Mass Detection via a simple mode of operation while also providing instrument health tracking and designed-in smart diagnostics. The LC/MSD iQ is designed to work seamlessly with the industry-leading InfinityLab LC family which provides a broad portfolio of products designed to work optimally together to achieve maximum lab productivity and long-lasting value for any application and budget.

Jennifer Gushue and Nathan Eno were speaking to Ash Board, Editorial Director at Technology Networks.