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Pittcon 2014 Informatics Wrap-Up

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Despite the cold, Chicago offered many benefits for Pittcon 2014 attendees.  Most flights that were out of the path of the seemingly-endless storms had no trouble landing or departing.  Once in town, the snow flurries were slight, the days were bright and the famous chill wind could have been much more fierce.  The benefits to those who came were brisk clear days and starry nights; if you had the opportunity to visit the John Hancock Tower for dinner or drinks, you enjoyed a breathtaking view of the city.

Chicago’s McCormick Place once again hosted the Pittsburgh Conference (Pittcon), the premier conference and exposition on laboratory equipment and chemical analyses in North America.  Numerous sessions, short courses, and workshops were conducted that brought attendees up to date on the latest in LIMS, informatics, laboratory automation and laboratory regulations. Several informatics vendors exhibited at Pittcon for the first time, while well-known vendors unveiled new products, services and solutions.  

This year the Food Labs Conference was held in conjunction with Pittcon, which provided a strong emphasis on food and beverage applications in the lab and placed emphasis on food safety, quality and regulations.  During an invited symposium on food safety, US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Stephen Musser said that seafood fraud is a prime example of the food crime, stating that 87% of all snapper is mislabeled as is 59% of all tuna.  In fact, one in three seafood sampler are mislabeled, thus a key focus for the FDA is on seafood authenticity through DNA barcoding.  These and other applications were under scrutiny throughout the conference; following are some of the Informatics highlights.

Emphasis on Food Safety

With the emphasis on food research strongly in mind, Waters Corporation kicked off the press conferences with a very interesting guest speaker: Professor Chris Elliott, Chair of the Food Safety and Microbiology at Queens University in Belfast, and government-appointed Director of the Institute for Global Food Security in Belfast.  His credentials established, Dr. Elliott rolled out the highlights of a recent report the Institute had undertaken.  The Institute first used triple quad and now time-of-flight mass spectrometry to detect food crime, which Dr. Elliott stated is a global phenomenon.  In fact, the CDC estimates that only 20% of these crimes are caught.  And what exactly is food crime?  Food crime comes in several flavors: substitution, misbranding, contamination and adulteration, sometimes deliberate and sometimes not.  For example, one of the most frequent offenses is substituting and selling prohibited or toxic fish that looks another. Another example is substituting peanut flour for regular flour.  “The more you look for it [food crime], the more you will find it,” claims Dr. Elliott. Of course the recent horsemeat scandal in Europe was cited as a prime example of food substitution on a grand scale. Food safety issues would continue to emerge in conversations, discussions and presentations throughout Pittcon.  

Waters highlighted the ten-year anniversary of their ACQUITY UltraPerformance LC (UPLC) System, and introduced their new ionKey/MS System, a new approach for getting exceptional sensitivity, robustness and ease-of-use out of mass spectrometry and featured the ACQUITY QDa, the first mass detector to bring high-quality, mass spectral data to chromatographic separations.

Improving Efficiency

Improving efficiency was a big emphasis from many vendors, and numerous demonstrated how vendor software could help achieve this goal were conducted.  

Thermo Scientific featured several new products and upgrades to existing products.  These included an updated release of the Thermo Scientific Chromeleon 7.2 Chromatography Data System (CDS), which now allows users to couple mass spectrometers to liquid and ion chromatography instruments, and the new Thermo Scientific Lab Execution System (LES).  Combined with the instrument integration capabilities of Thermo Scientific Integration Manager, and the raw data storage and retrieval capabilities of the company’s SDMS (Data Manager), the new LES is web-based and built on and fully integrated with the Thermo Scientific enterprise-level lab information management system (LIMS) platform, allowing the LES functionality to be accessed from the LIMS or from any web browser.  These tools, according to company representatives, enable the lab to drive down costs with better software since, for instance, Chromeleon enables the lab to reduce overtime by automating workflows.

Abbott highlighted STARLIMS V11, which now includes capabilities for mobile device applications, advanced analytics and HTML5 compatibility.  These features allow STARLIMS users to work on the right screen for the task with an expanded platform to access LIMS information anywhere.

LIMSABC featured what has to be the first medical marijuana LIMS.  Certainly this is a new application.  Started by principals with extensive LIMS experience, the company is working with several states to ensure that organic, pesticide-free product is sold where it can be sold legally.  They point out that the issue of dosage is still being resolved because, unlike alcohol, marijuana stays in the system longer. Right now this nascent application will need clinical trials and clinical labs that focus on different marijuana strains optimized for different diseases.  LIMSABC is a free, cloud-based LIMS that offers mobile data input and access from smart devices.

Bio-Rad announced the release of KnowItAll ATR/IR ID Expert and Raman ID Expert solutions for spectral identification.  With ATR/IR ID Expert and Raman ID Expert, the user simply opens an unknown spectrum and the software automatically performs single and multiple component searches as well as functional group analyses simultaneously and summarizes the results on a single screen to give a complete view of all possibilities for the unknown spectrum.  They also released a beta version of USP Spectral Library powered by KnowItAll for spectral analysis, identification, search, data management, and reporting.  Ed Zhao, U.S. Pharmacopeia Convention’s (USP) Vice President of Business Development and Allied Compendial Programs, was on hand to emphasize the significance of the solution. “The USP Spectral Library has the potential to help ensure the quality of medicines and foods throughout the world,” he said.

Better Workflows

Better workflows and collaboration were a big focus at Pittcon this year, and Johnson Controls emphasized these attributes with the launch of enhanced Integrated Laboratory Services (ILS) to optimize R&D facility operations and drive scientific productivity.  The new ILS includes a range of specialist solutions to drive operational and financial efficiencies while managing risk.  Their focus is not on optimizing the instruments but on optimizing the lab.

Accelrys highlighted their new Accelrys Notebook 5.0, a flexible, multi-discipline electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) with significant new capabilities for customizing work environments and connecting to existing laboratory software without complex integration and advanced programming support. As an easy-to-use ELN that deploys out of the box on premises or in the cloud, Accelrys Notebook 5.0 enhances the way researchers capture, share and reuse experimental information.
Along with several new instruments, Bruker launched their Dash Reporting software, an intuitive new system that brings the power and flexibility of customized reporting to all users.  This new capability centers on Dash Designer, a purpose built standalone application which enables customers to position and closely format report elements, and preview reports with relevant data.  Dash Designer then seamlessly integrates with Bruker’s MS Workstation data system to generate reports both manually and automatically, according to customer needs.  Food applications were also at the forefront in Bruker’s booth: they announced the third release of their successful NMR JuiceScreener system.  The new release comes with significant enhancements that enable the accurate, swift, automated screening of even more fruit juice types from just a single experiment.  An expanded database of reference spectra now contains more than 16,000 samples obtained from production sites all over the world, containing more than 300,000 NMR reference values covering more than 19 different types of fruit, enabling the detection of several adulterations and the determination of fruit origin, depending on the type of fruit.  

LabVantage previewed LabVantage 7 Express at Pittcon 2014. LabVantage, an entirely web-based LIMS, powers thousands of laboratories globally. With LabVantage 7 Express, smaller labs that want to use standard, out-of-the-box processes will have access to the same powerful platform as LabVantage 7 Enterprise.  They also revealed that they will launch LabVantage 7 Enterprise later this year which will have a next generation workflow designer along with other new capabilities.

LabWare highlighted their Enterprise Laboratory Platform, which combines their popular LabWare LIMS and LabWare ELN.  LabWare announced LabWare 7, the newest version of their LIMS.  LabWare 7 includes not only numerous functional and performance enhancements but also browser enhancements, a new interactive Dynamic User Interface, a platform for new mobile applications and an enhanced licensing model.  

Abacalab featured their mobile data management device, Protocol Labacus.  Protocol Labacus is a fully-packaged web application compatible with all major computing platforms, modern tablets and web browsers.  It scans barcodes, takes pictures and delivers custom reports, and is designed to help keep track of all details of work procedures.

Lab Data Standards

Laboratory standards were also highlighted during Pittcon.  Allotrope Foundation made a big splash at Pittcon, with their introduction of the development of a new open framework for lab data.  Recently begun in 2012, the organization started software development in September 2013.  The foundation is “a not-for-profit association of pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies attempting to establish a new standard for the acquisition and management of lab data”.  The software model they are evaluating is AniML (Analytical Information Markup Language).

BSSN Software highlighted their Seahorse Scientific Workbench, which allows scientists to accurately capture and review laboratory experiments with an unprecedented depth, no matter which instruments or measurement techniques were used.  BSSN Software provides solutions for vendor-neutral data management and long-term archiving. They have been using the AniML standard since its inception and are keeping a close eye on the upcoming ASTM XML standard for analytical data.

Many other well-known LIMS and Informatics vendors were at Pittcon highlighting their solutions, including Autoscribe, Accelerated Technology Laboratories, Advanced Chemistry Development, Baytek International, Caliber Infosolutions, Cerno Bioscience, ChemWare, Core Informatics, Ethosoft, Freezerworks, Khemia Software, LabAnswer, Promium, Quality Systems International and RURO.  Other Technology Networks communities cover the latest analytical product introductions in detail.

Check out www.Labtube.tv for the latest Informatics videos from Pittcon!

Post by Technology Networks Informatics Editor Helen Gillespie