Waters says the need to accelerate collaborative research wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the company to open Immerse™ Cambridge, a new laboratory in Cambridge, MA, where it plans to team up with academic, research, and industry partners.

“We will feature many systems to best suit a wide range of collaborative applications such as our ACQUITY UPLC®, Xevo, BioAccord, and Andrew Alliance technology families, but will also include new and emerging technologies in development from Waters and our partners,” Kelly Johnson, Waters’ Director of Immerse Innovation and Research Lab Network, told GEN.

ACUITY UPLC is Waters’ Ultra-Performance Liquid Chromatography (UPLC®) technology, which has delivered dramatic increases in resolution, speed, and sensitivity since its launch in 2004, using columns packed with sub 2-micron porous particles [1.7–1.8 µm] as well as pressures of up to 15,000 psi. Xevo is Waters’ family of mass spectrometers, while BioAccord is the company’s combined Liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry system.

Andrew Alliance is the developer of specialty laboratory automation technology—including robots like one used for glycan preparation and analysis, and cloud native software for liquid handling—that Waters acquired in January, in a deal that broadened the buyer’s tech portfolio. Waters bought Andrew Alliance for $80 million, net of cash acquired; Waters had a $4 million equity investment in Andrew Alliance that was included as part of the total consideration.

“Immerse Cambridge will house the latest analytical instruments and technology from Waters and will allow us to offer the deep expertise of our scientists to partner with the biotech community to innovate, collaborate and interrogate biology in new ways,” Udit Batra, PhD, who became Waters president and CEO effective September 1, added in a statement. He succeeded Christopher O’Connell, who “mutually agreed” with the board to step down, Waters said in June, but remains an advisor to the company until year’s end.

Immerse Cambridge is located in Cambridge’s Kendall Square section, about 37 miles northeast of Waters’ corporate headquarters in Milford, MA. The new lab is the first of several Immerse Innovation and Research Labs set to be established worldwide by the specialty measurement company.

“Each laboratory will have its own customized approach to take full advantage of the unique environment in which it inhabits,” Johnson said. “Our focus will be in key tech hub cities in Asia and Europe where both our customers and innovative thinking thrive.

“Cornerstone” project

At Immerse Cambridge, Waters said, a “cornerstone” project will be a collaboration with Boston University to develop more effective Influenza A virus vaccines. The partners will harness breakthrough ion mobility-mass spectrometry and bioinformatics technologies to develop more effective methods and techniques for measuring protein glycosylation.

Researchers aim to solve a critical problem for influenza vaccine development, as well as establish analytical and software solutions that will be broadly applicable for the future of vaccine development and the biomedical field. The collaboration has received $749,349 in capital funding from the quasi-public Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, which oversees state support for the industry through $623 million Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative.

Other initial projects Waters said it will be working on at Immerse Cambridge:

  • Addressing the demand for analytical and release testing capacity gaps for COVID-related treatments, vaccines and therapeutics
  • Breakthrough LC/MS prototypes and application development for the analysis of new therapeutic modalities
  • Addressing the “new normal” of post-COVID realities of changing lab workloads and requirements.

Waters is not disclosing how much it is investing in its Immerse labs. The company, employs more than 7,000 people and operates directly in 35 countries, with products available in more than 100 countries.

Waters saw its net income fall nearly 15% during the second quarter year-over-year, to $122.9 million from $144.4 million, on sales that decreased 13% to $520 million from $599 million in Q2 2019, with the company blaming the COVID-19 pandemic for lowering demand across all major global regions. Waters reported a 13% year-over-year sales decline in Asia, a 15% decline in the Americas (U.S. sales fell 14%), and an 11% drop in Europe.

Those declines, according to Waters, did not necessitate or accelerate establishment of Immerse Cambridge.

“Immerse Cambridge has been several years in the making,” Johnson said. “Despite some minor delays due to the pandemic, it was prioritized for completion in 2020 because of our need to accelerate research with the scientific community related to COVID-19.

Waters announced Immerse Cambridge, as well as its joining the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio), the Bay State’s life sciences industry group, during Biotech Week Boston, a virtual conference held September 21–24.

“Science moves faster together,” Johnson said. “Immerse Cambridge allows us to further engage scientific leaders, to keep pace with emerging needs, and foster inclusiveness, equity, and diversity.”

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