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Optimizing Analytical Tools To Accelerate Translational Research

John Lesica, president, chromatography and mass spectrometry at Thermo Fisher Scientific.
John Lesica, president, chromatography and mass spectrometry at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Credit: Thermo Fisher Scientific.
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At this year’s American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) conference, Thermo Fisher Scientific announced a variety of new mass spectrometry (MS) and chromatography instruments, in addition to software solutions, which support customers in unlocking deeper analytical insights while improving productivity and accelerating translational research.

John Lesica, president of the chromatography and MS division at Thermo Fisher, joined the Technology Networks team for an interview to discuss the new instrument launches and the wider landscape of translational omics.

Optimizing MS instruments for specific applications

Lesica began the conversation by emphasizing the core aims behind Thermo Fisher’s recent launches. “From a product perspective, one of the things we're really trying to ask is: how do we develop products specific for the application and the customer? Our products are very robust, and they’re versatile, but obviously you want to optimize them for what a customer is doing,” Lesica said. “The three new Thermo Scientific™ OrbitrapTM AscendTM Editions that we launched are really geared at that. So, if you're a biopharma customer and you're looking to categorize complex therapeutics, you have a Tribrid that is optimized for that application from a hardware and software standpoint. Same for structural biology, where there's a lot of interest from a multiomics standpoint. These are key examples of how we think about accelerating research – it's really around optimizing the analytical tools that our customers are using.”

Increasing the exposure of MS and proteomics

Translational omics enables researchers to draw meaningful insights from their data and apply it in a clinical setting, enhancing our understanding of human health and disease and creating new possibilities in drug discovery. Lesica said that, at this year’s ASMS, Thermo Fisher Scientific is thinking about how the company can increase the exposure of proteomics and MS in connecting proteomics and genomics data, the end goal being to accelerate precision medicine.


“When we think about precision medicine, there's been a lot of focus on genomics over the last 10–20 years, and we’ve gotten great intelligence from this field. What we've recognized, though, is that the proteins in your body help determine if you have a disease, and, if so, how fast it will progress in you. Genomics information is incredibly important, as is proteomics information – but you really need both.”


Last year we launched the Thermo ScientificOrbitrapTM AstralTM mass spectrometer (MS), which really is a game changer on the discovery side, and helped researchers – whether in academia or pharma – to understand: what are the biomarkers of interest that they want to go after?” said Lesica. “With that product, we accelerated the discovery side, so the next step is to advance translational science. Our focus now is to provide a complete solution for our customers from research labs to the clinic, and looking at different ways in which we can speed up that process,” Lesica added.

Historically, the gold standard technology in this realm has been a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer. “It’s rock-solid technology,” Lesica said. “But there are limitations in terms of sensitivity. The feedback that we received from customers is that they had FOMO – a fear of missing out – on biomarkers of importance because they had to make a trade-off. We heard that, and using technology that we already have, we created a hybrid quadrupole–linear ion trap instrument, the Thermo ScientificStellarTM MS.”

Stellar MS achieves 10X the quantitative sensitivity while analyzing five times more compounds for proteomics, metabolomics and lipidomics as traditional technologies. “Now, there’s no longer that fear of missing out,” Lesica said.

Throughput is also of critical importance for translational research. “Typically, with a triple quadrupole, the average lab is running anywhere from 40–50 samples per day. With Stellar MS, you're able to run 100 samples per day,” Lesica says. “What we’ve also learned from our early users is that they can reduce the time of their verification methods using the technology. One customer, for instance, presented a method that once took three months to create, and now takes three days.”

The Stellar MS and the Orbitrap Astral MS are very complementary technologies, Lesica emphasized: “You could use the Orbitrap Astral MS to run all of your untargeted work, and you’d say, ‘okay so these are the 700 biomarkers that I’m interested in’ before then developing your method on the Stellar MS and running all of your samples through that technology. And, of course, you can use the Vanquish UHPLC in front of both instruments as an initial separation technology.”


The new Thermo Scientific Vanquish™ Neo ultra-high performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) system Tandem Direct Injection workflow produces high-quality, consistent and biologically relevant data for proteomics labs. “Our Tandem Direct Injection workflow can be applied at scale to support liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS)-based omics,” Lesica said.


“The system’s workflow is a perfect companion to high-throughput mass spectrometers such as the Orbitrap Astral or Stellar MS because it increases sample throughput with a ~70% increase in samples per day and decreases carryover and yields by more than 90%,” he added.  

Increasing and simplifying user engagement

Moving from hardware to software, Lesica discussed Thermo Fisher’s latest capabilities within the Thermo Scientific™ Ardia™ platform, including Ardia Data Sync. “Today, customers will typically use a particular application to do their data analysis and to store their data. It’s usually a discrete essential analysis tool for the instrument they are using. And they’re often using an HPLC and a mass spectrometer, meaning they would use two different types of applications to both control the instrument and capture the data,” Lesica explained.


Ardia provides researchers with one ecosystem. “You’re logging in with one username and password and you have a common interface that you’re working with. A key word I would use here is connections – Ardia essentially connects a liquid chromatograph, a mass spectrometer and a gas chromatograph together; it’s like they’re no longer discrete instruments,” Lesica said. He noted that additional benefits include connectivity from an operations standpoint – customers and their colleagues can connect to their instruments from home, at the office or in the laboratory using Ardia whether to run an experiment or analyze data:


“It exponentially increases the engagement and simplifies user engagement when doing data analysis,” Lesica added.   

Consider the entire infrastructure when working to increase sustainability

Sustainability in MS technology and applications was a huge focus at this year’s ASMS conference. Lesica explained how, for Thermo Fisher, efforts to reduce its carbon footprint span the entire length of its product development process: “What I’m finding is that a lot of the community focuses on the instrument and its environmental impact, which is important. For example, we’re now using one dry pump in our newest mass spectrometers—replacing two oil pumps, lowering energy consumption and maintenance needs, while reducing noise and heat production. This results in a 30% energy savings compared to existing technology. But you've got to look at the infrastructure when designing the product and how you’re manufacturing it, which has a bigger carbon impact than the individual box.”

“Whenever we're thinking about a new product, sustainability is there throughout every step of the process from design, manufacturing, packaging and the entire supply chain. Both of our manufacturing sites in Germany are carbon neutral sites and we are focused on finding alternative materials in our manufacturing process in order to remove PFAS from our instruments,” Lesica said. 


John Lesica, president of chromatography and MS at Thermo Fisher Scientific, was speaking to Alexander Beadle, Science Writer for Technology Networks.


About the interviewee

John Lesica is the President of Thermo Fisher Scientific’s chromatography and mass spectrometry business. The multi-billion-dollar chromatography and mass spectrometry business and the 7,000 colleagues under John’s leadership provide innovative and productivity enhancing products and services to customers across the globe – supporting those customers with breakthrough innovations from basic research including proteomics and metabolomics to pharma and biotech to applied markets including clinical, semiconductor, food and beverage, and oil and gas.