Obviously we couldn’t cover all key themes and new products from this event, so if you would like to share your highlights of ASMS and examples of collaboration then join us on Twitter using #technetworksatASMS.
St Louis Missouri hosted the 63rd ASMS Conference on Mass Spectrometry and Allied Topics in early June. It was an invigorating mix of posters, sessions, workshops and exhibitors, and what struck me most was the vibrancy of the event. Who said trade shows and congresses are dying in a digital world?
All the usual vendor suspects were there, both with booths and hospitality suites, and a healthy collection of smaller and new companies too. Only six vendors hosted press conferences, but there were three big (and inter-related) themes that emerged from their presentations:
The move from a pharma driven industry to one of health sciences:
Waters summed this up fantastically in its press conference, by highlighting that the move towards personalised medicine has removed the sole focus from therapies into the realm of companion diagnostics. It is now essential for scientists to explore and understand the underlying molecular mechanisms of disease, identify biomarkers and diagnostics and then produce individualised methods of treatment. To do this, new mass spectrometry tools are required that go beyond the ‘box’.
Many vendors launched ‘solutions’ at the show, with SCIEX only unveiling workflows; reserving all major ‘product’ launches for other more therapy application-specific congresses. Jean-Paul Mangoelle, the President of SCIEX explained that the mass spec alone will not unlock the data that researchers need. They are now looking for validated offerings that provide end-to-end solutions to enable them to accelerate research, like SCIEX’s new BioBA Solution for bioanalysis of biologics, or its Lipidyzer Platform, which it claimed is the first all-in-one solution for accurate and meaningful next generation lipidomics.
This leads nicely into the second key theme of the event. The necessity for increasingly close relationships between vendors and the scientists who actually use mass spectrometry everyday, to develop tools to enable them to obtain the critical information they need.
Collaboration and partnership:
Five of the six vendors who held press conferences focussed on the importance of their partnership with scientists to develop solutions that enable the ‘previously impossible to become possible’. Bruker, SCIEX and Waters all had big-name scientific partners participate in their press events (all beta customers), while Agilent included customer videos and Thermo Fisher Scientific name-checked. A consensus among the customers emerged: vendors need to be steered to develop the appropriate technology to enable researchers to deliver the scientific breakthroughs they strive for. Agilent’s key theme of ‘powerful partnerships: inspiring results’ summed this up nicely.
This theme extended into the research groups themselves, where those that are making the biggest strides in innovation are made up of inter-disciplinary teams, such as that of Dr. Ron M.A. Heeren, Professor of Molecular Imaging at Maastricht University, the Netherlands. He explained “Research is no longer done on your own. Our research questions have become so complex that we must find the answers in collaboration.” Heeren partnered with Bruker on the development of the new MALDI Tissuetyper Solution with high speed rapifleX MALDI-TOF MS for anatomical pathology research. Explaining this collaboration he said “Translational clinically oriented research with mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) is critically dependent on speed and robust operation. Current instrumentation has been limiting its full adaptation. The new rapifleX-based MALDI Tissuetyper solution allows us to finally overcome that limitation.”
Another undercurrent at ASMS this year related to celebrating when an instrument or software contains technology developed by a different industry specialist. This is especially so in the OEM sector, where the large vendors are reticent in mentioning that a specialist has contributed its expertise and technology to developing an instrument. The market has come some way in realising that this is a selling point, for example Bruker eulogises the benefit of an ‘intel inside’ approach and highlights, for example, that it incorporates a PAL auto-injection system from CTC Analytics into some of its instruments, to enable online automated sample prep. Sadly this is the exception rather than the norm.
One company that has launched a new product at ASMS targeted at the instrument vendors is IDEX Health & Sciences which unveiled its latest feat of engineering: the MarvelX UHPLC Connection Systems. These connection systems have been designed specifically for ease-of use while providing consistent performance and superior re-usability.
Finally, CROs were ever-present at ASMS demonstrating that collaboration is live and well. A new player to the market is PTM Biolabs, which specialises in helping its customers to make proteomics data more palatable by helping them to formulate the right questions to ask and then get the meaningful answers they need.
Managing and analysing big data:
Multi-Omics was a key research topic that was focussed on by both Thermo Fisher Scientific and SCIEX. By bringing together data from all of the omics-specialties, huge scientific breakthroughs have been achieved, but the burden of handling so much data is becoming increasingly difficult to manage. Dr. Jennifer Van Eyk of Cedars Sinai explained in the SCIEX press conference her drive to understand the mechanistic level of cardiovascular disease using omics data. This enables the creation of the diagnostics and development of the personalised medicines needed to treat the disease. A whole team of bioinformaticians is required to make sense of the data and to provide meaningful information to act upon. This is why SCIEX has launched the OneOmics project, a collaboration with Illumina enabling scientists using SWATH-based next-gen proteomics to process, analyze and present multi-omics data seamlessly in the (Amazon-based) cloud.
Thermo Fisher Scientific took a slightly different approach, talking about the Thermo Fisher Scientific cloud. This proprietary cloud enables customers to upload data and derive important biological pathway knowledge. The company explained that this enables users to translate mass spec data into biological knowledge. The Thermo Fisher Scientific Cloud now supports proteomics-related data to complement existing data modules for Sanger sequencing and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), connecting scientists, instruments and software in a collaborative, multi-disciplinary environment.
Waters unveiled a new release of its UNIFI scientific information support system software. This launch puts the infrastructure in place to enable researchers to combine different omics data in the future. The company is actively looking at industry collaborations to bring this to market.
Many companies, big and small launched new products and solutions at ASMS. Here is a quick round-up of some of the other highlights:
Peptides and Reagents:
Promega unveiled a new peptide reference mix that is for use with both LC and MS. Combined with unique software, the 6 x 5 LC-MS/MS reagent provides a complete package for instrument quality control and performance monitoring.
Shimadzu launched a range of biotech products at ASMS, including a new ATHAP MALDI matrix kit, the triple quad LCMS-8060 as well as the results of a partnership with Novilytic Laboratories to bring its unique NoviplexDuo plasma prep card to the market. A card that will replace traditional DBS (Dry Blood Spot) cards, the Noviplex Duo Card enables the preparation of two plasma samples on one card in minutes.
The newest model in the Ultra-Fast Mass Spectrometry (UFMS) series, the LCMS-8060 combines Shimadzu’s proprietary ultrafast technologies (UF Technologies) with new ion guide technology for unparalleled sensitivity and throughput for a wide array of challenging and routine applications.
The LCMS-8060 features new technology, including a stronger vacuum system and a redesigned UF-Qarray ion optical system, for the highest levels of sensitivity in both MRM and scan modes. The instrument’s redesigned UF-Qarray features highly effective ion focusing capabilities. This technology helps reduce electrode contamination that can lead to poor instrument performance. Because the instrument stays clean and free of contaminants, the LCMS-8060 can provide highly reliable data even for long, continuous analysis of potentially contaminated items like biological and food samples.
As part of the UFMS series, the LCMS-8060 incorporates a number of UF Technologies to enable the highest levels of analytical throughput. These technologies provide for a scan speed of 30,000 u/sec and multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) speeds of 555 ch/sec. A polarity switching speed of 5 msec. ensures highly reproducible data and provides sufficient data points for the narrowest peaks.
Exceptional durability and easy operation and maintenance reduce downtime, while intuitive software allows for simplified instrument control.
Thermo Fisher Scientific:
Of the many new Thermo Scientific products launching at ASMS (including 14 new or upgraded software solutions) standouts are the Thermo Scientific™Q Exactive™GC and the Thermo Scientific™Orbitrap Fusion™Lumos™Tribrid Mass Spectrometer.
Thermo Scientific™ Orbitrap Fusion™ Lumos™ Tribrid Mass Spectrometer
The new Orbitrap Fusion™ Lumos™ Mass Spectrometer. Designed to expand researchers’ capabilities in advanced proteomics and metabolomics applications, including targeted, data-independent acquisition (DIA) and top-down analyses, the company claims the Orbitrap Fusion™ Lumos™ Tribrid MS has the industry’s highest level of sensitivity, delivering complete protein sequence coverage and allowing scientists to perform more inclusive analyses.
The Thermo Scientific™Q Exactive™GC-MS/MS is the first instrument to integrate high-resolution gas chromatography (GC) and high-resolution accurate-mass (HRAM) Orbitrap mass spectrometry (MS). This new-generation system provides pharmaceutical, metabolomics, anti-doping and food safety laboratories with improved levels of productivity by combining targeted and non-targeted detection and identification capabilities to GC-MS applications.
Bruker’s focus at ASMS was on MALDI. This year the company launched the MALDI tissuetyper solution which is based on the new rapiflex MALDI-TOF MS to ’open the door to anatomical pathology mass spectrometry analyses’. This MALDI imaging solution provides improved speed, through-put, ease-of-use, robustness and spatial resolution to overcome traditional bottlenecks in mass spec imaging.
Its second introduction was the MALDI PharmaPulse solution for high throughput screening in drug discovery. The technology provides researchers with assay times down to 1 second (opening the door to around 50,000 assays per day), as well as lower costs in terms of solvents and higher sensitivity.
Waters unveiled two major technologies this year: the Vion IMS QTof mass spectrometer for routine analyses and the hailed iKnife technology based on the REIMS Research System (originally developed and commercialised by Zoltan Takats of Imperial College and MediMass Ltd and sold to Waters in 2014).
REIMS - Rapid Evaporative Ionization MS - is combined with the iKnife, a tool that quickly heats samples to give off a chemical-rich vapor that is then analyzed directly within the MS. Targeted at food, microbiology and tissue researchers, the system eliminates sample prep and chromatographic separations from the workflow.
The Vion IMS QTof is a benchtop instrument that brings the power of high-resolution tandem MS and ion mobility separation to sample screening, metabolite identification and omics applications. The combination of IMS and CCS (collision cross-section) values for every ion gives scientists more information on analytes in a single analysis.
Agilent unveiled three new mass spectrometers at ASMS. The LC 6470 Triple Quadrupole LC/MS which is targeted to food testing, environmental analysis, drug development and clinical research applications; the 6545 Q-TOF mass spectrometry system for routine analyses; and the 7800 quadrupole ICP-MS for routine elemental analysis.
Engineered to be the company’s most robust triple quadrupole system, the 6470 delivers attogram-level sensitivity and accurate quantitation with up to six orders of linear dynamic range. The 6545 is a new midrange system which includes advances in hardware and software that make it both more reliable and easier to use for trace-level analysis of small-molecule compounds in applications such as food safety, environmental testing, forensic toxicology and pharmaceuticals. Finally, the 7800 provides wide dynamic range, exceptional matrix-tolerance, and superior interference removal, together with optimization tools and documentation to simplify method development and operation.
Going beyond just the hardware, Advion launched the the expressionE compact mass spectrometer (CMS) at ASMS. Created specifically for global education institutions interested in providing industry-relevant, hands-on mass spectrometry experience at an affordable price point, the expressionE combines instrumentation with a complete curriculum with a lecture and video series created by Jack Henion, PhD, an expert in mass spectrometry and co-inventor of the modern ion-spray technique.
Portable and ambient mass spec has been a hot topic at ASMS for a couple of years, and now another player has entered the market alongside 908 Devices, IonSense and Microsaic. Bayspec is launching the Portability, to formalise mass spectrometry’s move into the field. Designed to have better performance than handheld MS, but to be lighter and more robust than luggable alternatives, the Portability will be perfectly suited for environmental analyses especially water and wastewater, and the first responder market for explosives and forensic toxicology.
DART – direct analysis real time –technology from IonSense was one of the more established ambient mass spectrometry techniques at the show. The company announced a new partnership with Waters to incorporate DART into the Waters Acquity qDA in a drive to bring mass spec out of the lab and into process environments.
Continuing the theme of unlocking the power from the data that is already generated from mass spec analyses is ACD/Labs, with the launch of the MS Structure ID software solution. Again, developed as a solution rather than just a product, MS Structure ID combines some of ACD/Labs’ existing software products (local ChemSpider database, observed versus predicted fragment ion filtering, and ranking by predicted retention times) into an off –the-shelf solution for the identification of unknown components. The product reduces the time taken to identify structures from weeks to minutes.
Collaboration is the foundation of the Byologic software from Protein Metrics. Developed as a result of a partnership with Genentech, and powered by the company’s belief that scientists should be given the tools to enable them to focus on what they do best: unlocking the science, Byologic is an inspection and quantification software that provides fast and accurate validation of identifications. Vendor-neutral, the software enables scientists to get to a result, for example in protein modification and sequence variant identification, much faster than ever before.
Building on the success of its Scaffold Software Suite, Proteome Software unveiled a new solution for metabolomics applications. Handling the whole metabolomics workflow from processing raw data right through to the organization, interrogation and visual representation of the results, the new Elements software enables researchers (especially in core labs) to send data to biologists without the need for bioinformaticians to make sense of it first.
This is just a taste of the new products unveiled at ASMS this year, and sadly there is not enough space to cover them all. What this does tell us is that mass spectrometry and ASMS are thriving, and we are very lucky to be part of this exciting industry that is really impacting the important issues of today, especially in the identification and treatment of diseases.