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Can You Achieve Rapid MS Analysis With No Sample Prep?

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News of how innovations can assist scientists and their workflows is not uncommon, but claims of “industry revolutions”, however, tend to be a little less frequent. Utilizing Acoustic Droplet Ejection (ADE) sampling technology, the Echo® MS System from SCIEX is touted as being one such revolution.

Combining an Open Port Interface (OPI) and ADE, the Acoustic Ejection Mass Spectrometry (AEMS) technology offers laboratories non-invasive contactless sampling and mass spectrometry data at the speed of three samples per second, without impacting the quality of results.

To learn more the Echo® MS System we spoke to Neil Walsh, Sr. Manager, Global Pharma Strategic Marketing at SCIEX.

Ash Board (AB): How does the Echo® MS System remove the need for chromatography? 

Neil Walsh (NW):
There will always be the need for chromatography in instances where it is required, for example with isobaric interference, where extensive sample preparations is required to meets detection levels. But what AEMS can do is analyze samples very quickly when the selectivity and sensitivity of electrospray ionization (ESI) mass spectrometry is able to meet the detection levels of the assay.

AB: How does the speed of the Echo® MS System compare to traditional liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS)?

NW: If you consider other traditional LC-MS/MS technologies, those are in the region of 1-3 minutes per sample. The Echo® MS system can deliver speeds that are up to 50 times faster than those currently at market. It really puts in perspective the barriers that can be potentially broken in terms of throughput.  A traditional LC-MS/MS assay injects a sample every minute. With Echo® MS you could have analyzed 60 samples in that same time period, at 1 sample per second or 180 samples multiplexed at 3 samples per second.  For high throughput screening (HTS) in drug discovery, this puts mass spectrometry’s speed in the same ballpark as plate reading technology. However, plate reading technology is entirely unlabeled, whereas MS produces specific and precise, information-rich answers that allows users to make critical decision faster.

AB: Compared to LC-MS, are you putting more ‘dirt’ into the instrument, increasing the need for cleaning?

In our work with the system so far, and in the feedback, we have received from collaborators and early adopters, the instrument has not required any additional cleaning beyond what would be expected for high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)-based work. It’s important to consider that HPLC-based work only provides sample cleanup if a divert valve is being used. 

The main consideration with the Echo® MS system is that in the region of a thousandth of the traditional LC-MS/ MS sample volume is being ejected into the system (2.5-25 nL).

AB: What key markets/applications is the Echo® MS system aimed at?

As mentioned above, a lot of the collaborative effort in bringing this technology to market has been primarily in conjunction with big pharma (Pfizer, Merck, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol Myers Squibb,  etc). There is a drive to have mass spectrometry more widely deployed in HTS and high throughput ADME. Until now, plate reader technology has been widely used due to its speed and amenability to highly automated environments like HTS. In contrast, LC-MS currently can only handle small subsections of pharma drug discovery libraries due to its speed.

In drug discovery, the number and routes of synthesis are growing. Some routes of biosynthesis are generating potentially up to one million compounds a week. Using incumbent technology, 1 million compounds being analyzed against a target, running 24/7, would take in the region of 115 days. When you compare that to that with the Echo® MS system running multiplexed as 3 samples per second, which would take in the region of 4-5 days. When you consider this speed and scalability of the technology, it fits hand in hand with the HTS drug discovery environment. The upside for customers is that it can help them reach their goal of moving drug candidates more quickly through the critical go/no go decision path, by presenting better-characterized lead compounds for development.

AB: The technology looks like it could be a real game-changer. Where do you think the technology will go, can we expect to go faster in the future?

We already see pull for the technology into other areas and markets outside of drug discovery and development. For instance:

  • Synthetic biology: here, the bottleneck is the iterative testing of yield from various strains’ development
  • Food testing: high value food manufacturing where time critical decisions on production
  • Agrochemical testing: expediting safer perishable products to market
  • Forensic testing: an opportunity for real-time analysis of evidence

SCIEX is not only invested in the future development of the AEMS technology and the ability to go even faster but also the development the product. So stay tuned…

Neil Walsh was speaking to Ash Board, Editorial Director at Technology Networks.

Echo and Echo MS are trademarks or registered trademarks of Labcyte Inc. in the United States and other countries, being used under license by SCIEX.