MILFORD, Mass.—Further strengthening and expanding an existing two-year old agreement that matched Waters Corp.'s Micromass ZQ mass spec (MS) with Thar Technologies' supercritical fluid chromatography (SFC) systems, the two companies last month announced an exclusive OEM agreement that now provides Thar access to Waters demonstration facilities and broader access to its R&D resources with the intention of providing next-generation SFC/MS tools to the pharmaceutical market.
Under the agreement, Waters will loan mass spec equipment to Thar which the company will then integrate with its SFC systems. According to Todd Palcic, vice president of Thar, the company intends to have operating instruments at its corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh and in Newark, Del., at the former offices of Berger SFC, which Thar acquired from Mettler Toledo earlier this year. In addition, plans are in the works for at least two other as yet undeclared Waters sites to feature the SFC/MS tools, with one of the two located somewhere in Western Europe.
The strengthening of the relationship is based on what both companies see as an emerging market in the pharmaceutical industry to use SFC/MS for both analytical and purification purposes.
"Where this is heading, and where the very serious growth will occur for SFC/MS, is in fraction collection and the development of an SFC/MS mass-directed product line," Palcic says. "Currently, there is an unmet market need for this in the preparative medicinal chemistry support labs and the preparative screening labs in big pharma."
Waters sees not only the potential for these tools to gain broader acceptance and use, but has also heard the desires of its customers for these kinds of tools. "What it really comes down to and the reason we are moving ahead with Thar is there is real market pull," says Warren Potts, senior business manager, pharma operations at Waters.
In addition to the demonstration facilities, the two companies will also broaden joint R&D activities, most of which are focused on the integration of Waters MassLynx software with the Thar's SFC systems. "We want to make sure that we have all the control that is required in their SFC within the context of our MassLynx environment which is what drives our MS-based systems," Potts notes.
Thar is also currently developing new systems that will up the CO2 flow rates from 30 mL/minute to 100 mL/minute, a move that is expected to provide a bump in sales, according to Palcic.
"There are a bunch of people who are interested in our SFC who are sitting on the fence, waiting for our 100mL system," he says. "We should have them available sometime in the second quarter next year."
While some may consider SFC systems mainly a "green" technology , there is also a strong business case to be made for its application, Palcic points out. At an SFC user's conference held last month, Palcic says representatives of big pharma were quick to point out the substantial savings of using SFC for purification versus solvents. "It was stated that pharma companies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per year per instrument on purchasing and disposal of solvents," he notes.
In addition, Palcic maintains that purification using SFC is "three to five times faster" due to low viscosity and high diffusivity.
"Companies are looking to bring new drugs to market faster and one of the ways to do that is to break the purification bottleneck," he says.