John Sterling Editor in Chief Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

2010 meeting attracted 16,836 attendees, and roughly 40% were exhibitors.

The 2010 edition of the annual “Pittcon” meeting, which ran from March 1–4 in Orlando, drew 16,836 attendees, about 40% of whom were exhibitors. As usual, there were numerous new product introductions with applications in a variety of life science research areas.

For example, AB Sciex launched what it calls the first mass spectrometry based software application specifically designed to advance the study of lipidomics. LipidView™ is an automated data processing tool that enables researchers to more effectively identify and quantify lipids from complex samples, providing standardized information from a catalog of more than 40 lipid classes and 23,000 possible lipid species, noted Laura Lauman, president.

Among the organizations adopting LipidView is Zora Biosciences, which uses LipidView software to carry out data processing of mass spectrometry-based analysis for lipid profiling as a means to better understand medical conditions including diabetes and obesity in an effort to develop better drugs and discover useful lipid biomarkers.

AB Sciex also introduced its CYP450 Protein Assay – Human Induction Kit, which allows the quantitation of cytochrome P450 protein isoforms using an AB Sciex Triple Quad™ or QTRAP® system.

Agilent Technologies

Agilent Technologies released the 6150B series single quadrupole LC/MS. This newest generation of the instrument has substantially higher sample throughput, said Wayne Duncan, Agilent single quadrupole LC/MS marketing manager.

To match the speed of fast chromatography including UHPLC (such as the Agilent 1290 Infinity platform), the 6150B series can scan at 10,000 amu per second, Duncan continued. “This is important to confirm identification of the correct compound in the complex reaction mixtures such as those found in drug discovery synthesis.”

The 6150B series is the first Agilent single quadrupole LC/MS equipped with Agilent Jet Stream Technology, whose sample inlet design uses super-heated sheath gas to focus the ion stream entering the mass spec. The benefit is enhanced sensitivity from a stronger signal with lower relative standard deviation at the limit of detection, Duncan noted.

Separately, the company introduced the OpenLAB software portfolio, designed as a better way for labs to capture, share, review, and archive scientific data. The product consists of three integrated solutions: OpenLAB Chromatography Data System, OpenLAB Electronic Lab Notebook, and OpenLAB Enterprise Content Manager.

Also unveiled was Agilent’s Instrument Control Framework (ICF), a software component allowing third-party software to enable and control Agilent LC systems in chromatographic data systems or workstations.


Biotage launched Evolute WCX, a mixed-mode weak cation exchanger, developed for extraction of strongly basic analytes and quaternary amines from aqueous samples. These analytes are typically found in pesticides and provide analytical scientists with the ability to extract pesticides from diverse matrices, ranging from ground water to blood samples. “This is the second expansion of the Evolute family of resin-based, solid-phase extraction products,” explained Scott Carr, vp of commercial operations for Biotage.


CEM displayed its new platform for pressurized microwave digestion. The Discover SP-D pressurized microwave digestion system, which incorporates automated pressure control and a novel vessel design, can process a typical 0.5 g sample of organic material in 10 minutes or less, including cool down, in a sequential format that allows individual method programming for each sample, said Michael J. Collins, Ph.D., president and CEO.

“With Discover SP-D, laboratories can now interrupt the sequence of samples that are being processed to run a priority sample and then begin processing the remainder of their samples again without reprogramming,” he explained.

The product uses 10 mL or 35 mL glass or quartz vessels with disposable snap-on caps designed to work with CEM’s ActiVent™ technology, a pressure control device. Discover SP-D features individual sample programming so that samples with different parameters, methodologies, and vessel sizes can be run in any sequence.

Automated sample decks are available, which recognize different vessel sizes without operator intervention, and can run unattended overnight, continued Dr. Collins.


Dionex added a new Acclaim® HILIC column designed for separating highly hydrophilic analytes by hydrophilic interaction LC. The novel column is based on high-purity, spherical, porous silica gel that is covalently modified with a proprietary neutral hydrophilic layer. It was created for a range of applications including the separation of highly hydrophilic drugs and drug metabolites.

The company also announced service releases that add new capabilities to two generations of the Chromeleon® chromatography data system software. New instruments supported include the capillary-capable ICS-5000 ion chromatography system, the UltiMate® RSLCnano rapid separation Nano LC systems, and the UltiMate 3000 FLD fluorescence detector.

Now both Chromeleon 6.8 and 7.0 (which was launched at Pittcon) simplify daily tasks via SmartStartup and SmartShutdown features. Both offer the Virtual Column™ separation Simulator, which predicts IC separations in seconds without requiring any lab work, according to a Dionex spokesperson.

In addition, Dionex released two new biocompatible UltiMate 3000 pumps for the micro-flow range. The Biocompatible Quaternary Micro Pump LPG-3400BM allows for the selection of up to four solvents and quaternary gradient profiles. The biocompatible Dual-Gradient Micro Pump DGP-3600BM can be used in biocompatible microbore LC systems for multidimensional (MD) protein analysis and purification. It supports advanced biochromatography schemes such as application switching and automated MD chromatography, explained a company official.

Also introduced were the IonPac® anion- and cation-exchange capillary columns and CarboPac® capillary columns, an eluent generator cartridge, a continuously regenerated trap column, the capillary electrolytic suppressor 300, and the carbonate removal device 200.

Other Dionex product introductions included the ProSwift® SCX-1S, 1.0 x 50 mm strong cation-exchange column designed for small-scale, protein separations; IonSwift™ MAX-100 monolith anion-exchange column for gradient separation of monovalent, divalent, and trivalent carboxylic acids and inorganic anions in a variety of sample matrices (including chemical, food, and beverage samples); five new Viper™ capillary kits for the UltiMate® 3000 intelligent LC solutions including tandem operation, automated application switching, on-line SPE, parallel LC, and automated method scouting; and the enhancement of its Viper stainless steel, fitting connector to be used with UHPLC and HPLC systems. The connector can now be used with a range of columns and pressures up to 1,200 bar.


Eksigent launched the ExpressLC-Ultra, a new microscale HPLC system that runs at column pressures of up to 10,000 psi, allowing the use of sub-2 micron particle columns. Along with a new UV detection system, the system delivers all the advantages of microscale LC including solvent savings, reduced sample requirements, and reduced frictional heating, explained David Neyer, Ph.D., product manager for Eksigent.

“The new system’s CCD-based UV detector works with microfabricated flow cells to ensure ultrahigh sensitivity with no band broadening. The ExpressLC-Ultra’s high UV sensitivity allows detection of impurities at levels as low as 0.05 percent, meeting the needs of researchers in drug discovery and many other applications,” he pointed out. The system incorporates Eksigent’s Microfluidic Flow Control technology to generate flow rates from 1 to 50 microliters per minute.

Grace Davison Discovery Services

Grace Davison Discovery Sciences, a product line of W. R. Grace & Co., expanded the company’s Reveleris® product portfolio with the introduction of a novel flash purification system for use by pharmaceutical and agribusiness scientists. The new system integrates the company’s RevealX™ detection technology with an enhanced software capability to yield more samples with fewer impurities in less time, according to a company official.

Reveleris SRC™ cartridges that use RFID and a new high-pressure rating to improve purification by maximizing system resolution, sample loading, and recovery also come with the new system.

Joanne Green, GM and vp of Grace Davision Discovery Sciences, noted that flash chromatography has been the primary technique used to purify new entities in the early stages of drug discovery. The purified compounds are then tested for their potential to be viable new drug candidates.

Hamilton Company

Hamilton Company announced the North American launch of its new ARC sensor system for pH, dissolved oxygen and conductivity measurements. Designed with new technology, each ARC sensor features a built-in microprocessor that can communicate with both analog (4–20 mA) and digital modbus interfaces.

Direct connectivity eliminates the need to send information through transmitters and signals are more robust and reliable than the low currents or voltages produced in classical measurement systems, said a Hamilton spokeswoman, who added that ARC sensors can be precalibrated and configured in the lab.

The company also released the pHeasy ARC Sensor, a tool for process pH measurement without recalibration. The pHeasy ARC sensor incorporates a ChekRef device that provides feedback on the accuracy of the pH measurement, delivers an alert when an electrode needs replacement, monitors chloride loss, and detects reference poisons. Users can set inaccuracy limits for warnings and alarms based on the status of the sensor quality including glass resistance, reference resistance, and the CheckRef potential.

pHeasy also features direct communication with the process logic controller (PLC) without transmitters, enabling delivery of the feedback measurements for adjustments through a 4–20 mA or digital signal.

Hamilton Robotics introduced Microlab® Venus Two, the next generation of its control software for Microlab STAR and STARlet liquid-handling workstations. The new program features a touch-screen graphical user interface designed to streamline method setup and enhance overall system accessibility. Venus Two also incorporates new multiple language capability to support users around the globe.

A real-time 3-D deck view display has been added, enabling users to see pipettor functions on the screen and test a method in simulation mode before starting the actual run.  The new Venus Two program also enables remote control of a STAR system through an iPhone, giving the user mobility in the lab.


PerkinElmer launched the NexION™ 300 inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) for elemental analysis.

“The NexION 300 platform advances trace element analysis, and its introduction is perfectly timed to help address global problems, ranging from contamination of our air, water, and food to the integrity of pharmaceuticals and nutritional supplements, as well as the safety of emerging nanomaterials,” explained Martin Long, vp-spectroscopy, analytical sciences and laboratory services.

The instrument features the Universal Cell Technology™ (UCT) and provides three modes of interference removal (standard, collision, and reaction). These three modes allow scientists to choose the appropriate technique for their particular application based on the complexity of the problem to be solved.

The NexION 300 system can be integrated with chromatography systems for effective speciation analysis to enable customers to accurately separate and measure the toxicity, bioavailability, metabolism, and environmental mobility of elements, added Long. 


Phenomenex’ Clarity® Oligo-MS™ columns for LC/MS characterization and quality control of synthetic RNA and DNA made their debut at Pittcon. Based on the company’s core-shell particle technology, the new C18 columns deliver shorter run times than traditional media along with increased resolution and sensitivity, claimed a Phenomenex official. Impurities in complex synthetic mixtures reportedly can be separated from the peak of interest in less than 10 minutes.

Also making their first entrance on the life science stage was Phenomenex’ Clarity® OTX™ Extraction Kit for the isolation of RNA- and DNA-based therapeutics and their metabolites from biological matrices. Clarity OTX extracts these oligos from serum, plasma, and tissue samples for downstream LC/MS bioanalysis, noted the company’s Cathy Cordova.

“Specially designed to meet the sample-preparation requirements of ADME/pharmacokinetics studies, Clarity OTX kit-based solutions combine a novel solid-phase extraction sorbent with specially formulated buffers to quickly deliver high recovery of all types of oligo therapeutics,” said Cordova.

Phenomenex also announced the launch of a chiral screening service for customers in pharmaceutical and natural products R&D. This free service provides target screening using a library of HPLC and SFC columns, including the Phenomenex Lux™ polysaccharide-based offerings. After resolving the chiral compound, Phenomenex also produces method development and optimization for the service customer, reportedly all within 10 business days.


Protein Technologies introduced its newest peptide synthesizer, the Overture™ robotic peptide library synthesizer.
The instrument can run syntheses from 0.005 to 24 mmol scales. It features six reaction blocks capable of holding 96 (10 mL) or 24 (40 or 45 mL) reaction vessels, 49 amino acid positions, six solvent bottle positions, variable-speed vortex mixing, automatic robotic arm calibration, and a full-color chemical-resistant touchscreen.

Amino acid deliveries are performed from individual dispensers, which do not require rinsing in between deliveries. The instrument’s software features sequence importing, automatic sequence placement, automatic library generation, automated cleaning routines and reports, and log file generation.


Shimadzu unveiled its Nexera UHPLC system. It is optimized to enable analysis at pressures up to 130 MPa. The maximized pressure over a wide flow range enables various types of analyses including micro LC to conventional LC, regular pressure LC to ultrahigh-pressure LC, and isocratic LC to ternary high-pressure gradient and multidimensional LC, said Shuzo Maruyama, GM of the LC business unit. The system is also suitable for LC/MS applications.

Nexera features fast injection (10 seconds), which can result in high throughput with 4,600 plus sample capacity. Nexera’s injection port and fine-tipped needle along with additional features such as multiple-rinse solvent selection and injection port and internal needle rinse reduce carryover to an absolute minimum, added Maruyama.

“The autosampler also offers fixed-loop injection for ultrafast separation with minimized peak width and gradient delay. An overlapping injection function is standard with Nexera to allow for a maximum reduction in cycle time,” he continued.

Thermo Fisher Scientific

Thermo Fisher Scientific showcased the new LTQ Velos™ and LTQ Orbitrap Velos. The LTQ Velos, which features a new dual-pressure trap and advanced ion optics, is an ion trap mass spectrometer. The LTQ Orbitrap Velos combines the Orbitrap mass analyzer, a new collisional dissociation cell and dual-pressure trap technology.

For proteomics applications, the multiple fragmentation techniques available on the LTQ Velos enable sequence assignment and post-translational modification identification. Faster scan rates reduce cycle times by up to 50%, doubling the number of proteins and peptides identified, according to the company.

For metabolism applications, the dual-pressure trap technology increases fragmentation efficiencies, resulting in faster and more confident structural elucidation, added a Thermo Fisher Scientific spokesperson, who noted that the LTQ Velos can be upgraded to the LTQ Orbitrap Velos.

The LTQ Orbitrap Velos reportedly combines the mass accuracy and resolution of the Orbitrap mass analyzer with the improved cycle time of the LTQ Velos to deliver hybrid mass spectrometry. The LTQ Orbitrap Velos was designed to increase the speed and confidence of protein identification in complex samples by minimizing false positives. For proteomics researchers, these capabilities enable the identification of more proteins with increased sequence coverage and higher confidence, claimed a Thermo Fisher Scientific official, who pointed out that for metabolism applications, the LTQ Orbitrap Velos provides researchers with high-resolution accurate mass data for more confident structural elucidation.

Thermo Fisher Scientific also introduced the Evolution™ Array™ UV-Visible spectrophotometer and the Thermo Scientific Lumina™ fluorescence spectrometer. A company spokesperson, during a presentation, said these instruments can be used in life science, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology laboratories to measure multicomponent chemical samples.

The Evolution Array uses photodiode array technology to provide full-spectrum data acquisition and sample throughput. It also provides simultaneous detection of all wavelengths throughout the ultraviolet and visible regions of the spectrum.

The Lumina fluorescence spectrometer provides a 0.5 nm spectral resolution and features a xenon lamp and fast scan speeds (up to 6,000 nm/min). Additionally, the photomultiplier detector in the Lumina offers an extended measuring near-infrared wavelength (190 nm to 900 nm), which can be used in research in biochemistry and photosynthesis applications.

Two new fume hoods were also launched by the company. The Hamilton™ Infinity™ and the Hamilton Advantage™ fume hoods incorporate directed air technology, which provides an airflow purge of the interior sidewall to enhance fume hood performance. The Infinity series features GreenFumeHood™ technology that utilizes Neutrodine® filters in place of traditional carbon filters to essentially eliminate atmospheric pollution from the exhaust.

At its Pittcon booth, Thermo Scientific demonstrated its new LIMS-on-Demand™ product. A company official said it allows organizations of varying types and sizes to leverage all the benefits of a LIMS solution without the time and cost typically associated with on-premise software installation. For the cost of a monthly subscription fee, a laboratory can securely access a fully functional, validated solution through a standard Web browser, he explained.

The Web interface enables connectivity with a variety of internal instruments and systems as well as external facilities, partners, and regulatory agencies. Customers can create workflows, map sample lifecycles, and generate automatic updates while providing users with access to data and information that impacts every phase of laboratory processes.


Waters introduced its Protein-Pak™ Hi Res, Ion-Exchange (IEX) columns designed for use with Waters Acquity® UltraPerformance LC® (UPLC) system for the analysis of biomolecules including mAbs, recombinant proteins, DNA/RNA, and vaccine components. These columns give biopharmaceutical manufacturers the ability to reproducibly characterize, with greater resolution and speed, various charge states of intact biomolecules, noted a Waters spokesperson.

The Protein-Pak Hi Res IEX family of columns were developed to assist in the UPLC characterization of recombinant proteins and mAbs found in many of today’s novel biopharmaceutical therapeutics. It was explained to visitors at the Waters booth that these nonporous, high-ligand density particles overcome the effects of protein diffusion on peak volume and resolution experienced when using traditional porous IEX particles for large molecule separations. In addition, it was pointed out that the novel particle and surface chemistry delivers high sample loading capacities and component resolution while minimizing column fouling.

The company also introduced what it labeled the first UPLC analytical size-exclusion chromatography (SEC) solution for the characterization of proteins and their aggregates. The UPLC solution, said Waters, combines a commercial sub two micron particle for SEC applications (the Acquity® UPLC BEH200, 1.7 µm SEC columns) with the Waters Acquity UPLC system to give manufacturers the ability to separate and quantify mAbs and their aggregates in less than four minutes.

“Since the launch of Acquity, our biopharmaceutical customers have asked us to bring the benefits of UPLC performance to size-exclusion chromatography,” explained Dorothy Phillips, Ph.D., director of chemistry operations strategic marketing. “Our new solution allows customers to monitor monoclonal antibody aggregation at speeds up to 10 times faster at comparable or better resolution than before, helping them overcome their challenges of developing novel biotherapeutics in less time and at lower costs.”

Waters Acquity UPLC BEH SEC columns are specially QC tested with protein mixtures to ensure batch to batch reproducibility, she added. In addition, each column features Waters Acquity UPLC eCord™ technology that helps monitor individual column use parameters throughout the lifetime of the column.

Waters also announced a suite of new services for Agilent liquid and gas chromatographs controlled by Waters® Empower™ chromatography software. The new maintenance, repair, and compliance services are being offered in response to the demand from laboratories for single-point-of-contact and ownership of support services for both Waters and Agilent systems, explained a Waters spokesperson.

Wyatt Technology

Steven P. Trainoff, Ph.D., director of engineering at Wyatt Technology, offered a computer presentation of the company’s new Möbiuζ™ mobility instrument. The instrument incorporates several patent-pending innovations to realize fast and reliable measurements of macromolecular electrophoretic mobilities, he said.

“Besides being capable of swiftly measuring mobilities of large particles such as liposomes and VLPs, Wyatt Technology’s Möbiuζ is the only laser-based instrument that achieves reproducible measurements of traditionally very challenging protein samples including antibody formulations, bovine serum albumin, and lysozyme,” explained Dr. Trainoff. “It is designed specifically to address the unique measurement of protein mobilities rather than a remake of a device designed to measure particulates.”

As well as being a noninvasive method, laser light scattering is prized for its ability to carry out physical, first-principle measurements of macromolecules’ electrophoretic mobilities, continued Dr. Trainoff, a physicist by training.

“However, when it comes to proteins, satisfactory results have been difficult to come by due to their small sizes (< 5 nm) and their more conspicuous Brownian motions. Lengthier measurements are therefore necessary to average out the mobility-masking diffusion and reveal the macromolecular electrophoresis. In the process, these fragile molecules are subjected to electrical currents and often irreversibly damaged and degraded, rendering the results unreliable,” he continued during a very detailed presentation.

“As the solution ionicity increases, the situation deteriorates because even more current is required to drive measurable electrophoresis. Existing products on the market notoriously ‘cook’ their protein samples and struggle to measure any macromolecule smaller than 5 nm at a reasonable concentration.”

The key to the successful measurement of proteins’ mobilities lies in a much shortened measurement time and the availability of sufficient data to average away molecular diffusion, he explained.

“The Möbiuζ achieves these goals through massive parallelism of detection and extends the measurable molecular size range below 2 nm. A reduced measurement time (< 60 seconds in most cases) contributes to excellent preservation of precious and fragile protein samples,” said Dr. Trainoff.

John Sterling is editor in chief of Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News.

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