Changing the location of mass spectrometry (MS) in the bioprocessing industry could make all the difference in efficiency. “Mass spectrometry has not moved onto the floor,” says Jeff Zonderman, CEO at IonSense. “Bioprocessors talk about inline and at line, but right now it’s offline.” He believes that DART (direct analysis in real time) can play a part in getting MS on the bioprocessing floor.

In Bioprocessing 4.0, bioprocessors will move more to quality-by-design (QbD) approaches. Even in 2014, scientists at Zhejiang University in China demonstrated that DART-MS could resolve the fundamental problems of using QbD, which is the added time and cost.

DART gives a bioprocessor two crucial improvements in analysis. “The keys are real time and minimizing sample preparation,” adds Brian Musselman, PhD, chief technical officer at IonSense. Solid and liquid samples can be analyzed directly with DART. “The idea of being able to analyze something without changing its basic nature is a fundamental timesaver.”

The key to getting DART-MS inline or at line in bioprocessing, Zonderman believes, depends on less-expensive and very robust technology. That’s been a challenge for MS, but Zonderman sees that changing. “Mass spec is catching up with DART,” he says. “Companies like 908 Devices and others have kind of shown that you can design reliable, compact, inexpensive mass spectrometers and put DART in front of it and put that at line.”

Actually, Zonderman sees a range of uses of DART-MS in bioprocessing, from analyzing raw materials to quality control of final products. In fact, he notes, “I’d like to say it goes everywhere.” That’s already the case in the food industry, but it might take more time for such a transition in bioprocessing.

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