On the cutting edge

A roundup of instrumentation, software and other tools and technology news

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In this month’s collection of recent hardware and software tools for pharma and biotech, we have columns lining up to help with biopharmaceutical characterization; a “smarter” way to perform flow cytometry experiments; centrifuges that bring better performance, compliance and safety to the benchtop with an improved interface; an automated RNA sequencing library preparation workflow; upgraded tandem quadrupole mass spectrometry equipment; and B cell maturation antigen flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry assays.
Columns improve characterization accuracy of biopharmaceuticals
COLUMBIA, Md.—The end of July saw Shimadzu Scientific Instruments announce the release of the new Shim-pack Bio Diol and IEX columns that it says improve the accuracy of the characterization of peptides, oligonucleotides and other biopharmaceuticals.
Shim-pack Bio Diol LC columns have different pore sizes, to help make them effective for analysis of aggregates and fragments of mAb, oligonucleotides and carbohydrates. These columns can reduce particle size from 5 μm to 2 μm to greatly improve the resolution between aggregates and monomers. Users can also reduce the column length from 300 mm to 150 mm using a 2 μm particle to achieve what is reportedly a 50-percent shorter run time while maintaining resolution.
Shim-pack Bio IEX Ion Exchange Columns are available in Q (quaternary ammonium) and SP (sulfopropyl) chemistries and are based on porous (Q and SP columns) and non-porous (Q-NP and SP-NP columns) hydrophilic polymers with low nonspecific adsorption. The porous particles offer excellent binding capacity with exceptionally high efficiency, and the non-porous particles offer high efficiency and superior resolution.
Sartorius debuts the Intellicyt iQue3 at CYTO 2019
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Sartorius showcased the latest addition to its cellular analysis portfolio at this year’s CYTO conference and exhibition in Vancouver, British Columbia, with the launch of the Intellicyt iQue3. The event gave delegates the chance to explore what the company called “a smarter way to perform flow cytometry experiments.”
The iQue3 is designed to provide fully automated processing and analysis for flow cytometry workflows, taking users “from samples to actionable answers faster than ever before,” according to the company. A successor to the iQue Screener PLUS, the new-generation instrument reportedly offers even more user-friendly operation and enhanced process security to ensure consistent and reliable results with minimal user intervention.
One of the iQue3’s new features is an enhanced rinse station that actively monitors buffer usage. With built-in liquid level detection, this module offers a smarter way to ensure you always have sufficient buffers to complete your run.
This is complemented by a number of updates to the system’s intuitive ForeCyt software, which uses a unique templated analysis approach to offer intelligent, fully automated data processing. This software solution has been specifically developed to alleviate common processing bottlenecks by eliminating the need for manual data analysis and providing real-time visualization of your data for virtually any cell- or bead-based assay.
Next-gen centrifuge series with unique touchscreen interface
WALTHAM, Mass.—Late July brought news that scientists working across biopharmaceutical, academic research and clinical diagnostic applications “can now access a series of sophisticated next-generation centrifugation systems designed to offer improved performance, reliability, consistency and safety,” according to Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. These centrifugation systems are among the first, the company says, to feature a full color, user-friendly touchscreen interface, enabling an advanced level of functionality for improved laboratory efficiencies.
Featuring an ergonomically enhanced, novel industrial design complemented by a wide range of rotors, the Thermo Scientific General Purpose Pro Centrifuge series of devices has been developed to deliver a safe and regulatory-compliant benchtop separation solution to meet an array of application needs, from clinical protocols and cell culture procedures to microplate processing. The series has been equipped with an advanced touchscreen interface that gives users easy access to prestored protocols, temperature control and system health checks to improve productivity and reduce time spent performing manual maintenance.
“Today’s increasingly complex laboratory workflows call for centrifugation solutions that are simple, practical and safe to use by all operators,” said Sung-Dae Hong, vice president and general manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “Building on our vast experience of more than eight decades dedicated to delivering market-leading centrifugation systems, and our commitment to develop solutions for our customers’ unmet needs, we’ve created the General Purpose Pro Centrifuge Series, with new technologies that further push the boundaries of performance for benchtop centrifuges.”
The General Purpose Pro Centrifuge Series includes the Thermo Scientific Sorvall, Thermo Scientific Multifuge and Thermo Scientific Megafuge configurations, which can be easily configured with a selection of rotors to address a range of application needs.
Automating RNA sequencing library prep with microfluidics
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—With the start of August came word from Fluidigm Corp. that it would introduce an automated RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) library preparation workflow in the third quarter. Developed for use with the Fluidigm Juno microfluidic system, the automated RNA-seq workflow significantly reduces cost per sample and hands-on time by up to 50 percent for the molecular laboratory, the company maintains. Delivering what is said to be greater efficiency and flexible scalability, the RNA-seq workflow solution is reportedly ideal for sequencing centers, core facilities and commercial service providers.
As Fluidigm notes, RNA-seq is a high-value research application that enables transcriptome profiling from diverse species and sample types using next-generation sequencing. Scaling RNA-seq library preparation in the molecular laboratory to meet increasing sample volumes, however, presents an ongoing challenge. Reagent kits are costly and manual processing requires significant hands-on time. As sample volume increases, laboratory options for automation are also currently limited. Although customization of large automated platforms is an option, these can require significant capital investment and laboratory resources to configure, and so RNA-seq library preparation can be ideal for microfluidic automation.
“We are excited to announce the upcoming launch of our new automated RNA sequencing library preparation workflow solution,” said Chris Linthwaite, president and CEO of Fluidigm. “We have already received strong, worldwide interest in this new product, including from cancer centers, academic medical research institutions, pharmaceutical companies and contract research organizations. Providing us with a new opportunity to capture high-volume accounts and increase consumables pull-through within our expanding Juno installed base, this upcoming product launch represents an important milestone in our strategy to accelerate the growth of our microfluidics business.”
Extending the tandem quadrupole MS portfolio
MILFORD, Mass.—Recently, Waters Corp. reinforced its tandem quadrupole mass spectrometry portfolio with upgrades to the Xevo TQ-S micro and the introduction of the new Xevo TQ-S cronos.
The Xevo TQ-S micro features new performance enhancements that bring quantitation of highly polar, ionic compounds to a higher level. The Xevo TQ-S cronos is a new, tandem quadrupole mass spectrometer purpose-built for routine quantitation of large numbers of small-molecule organic compounds over a wide concentration range. The upgraded Xevo TQ-S micro and the new Xevo TQ-S cronos complement the sensitivity of the Waters high performance Xevo TQ-XS. They are also well suited to performing impurity profiling of pharmaceuticals, identifying drugs of abuse, meeting regulatory requirements for pesticide residue analysis and monitoring for contaminants in processed foods. The updates to the Xevo TQ-S micro are inclusive of all systems, including in-vitro diagnostic medical devices.
“Today’s quantitative laboratories are under pressure to increase sample throughput and reduce turnaround times, quantify more analytes per sample and contend with more complex sample matrices,” noted Mike Wilson, director of mass spectrometry product marketing. “Today’s introduction of the compact, versatile Xevo TQ-S micro and Xevo TQ-S cronos systems combined with the highly sensitive Xevo TQ-XS system ensures Waters’ tandem quadrupole MS portfolio can meet any customer’s quantitation needs across the board.”
Both the upgraded TQ-S micro and new Xevo TQ-S cronos come with many of the signature features synonymous with the popular Xevo product line, including the StepWave ion guide for long-lasting sensitivity and performance, tool-free probe maintenance and ionization source cleaning, a choice of ionization sources including UniSpray for analyzing a broader range of compounds with greater ionization efficiency, automated start up and system optimization provided by IntelliStart, simplified method development and transfer with Quanpedia, and streamlined data review and processing with TargetLynx XS Software.
BCMA flow cytometry and IHC assays
TINLEY PARK, Ill.—In mid-July, Hematogenix, a global leader in the field of cancer research and immuno-oncology testing, announced the availability of assays for the assessment of B cell maturation antigen (BCMA) by flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry (IHC) at its facilities globally. BCMA, also known as tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily member 17 (TNFRS17), is a cell surface receptor which recognizes B-cell activating factor (BAFF).
BCMA is a promising target in the treatment of patients with multiple myeloma and potentially other B-cell disorders. Statistics have shown that even with treatment, approximately half of patients with multiple myeloma live for only five years after diagnosis.
“We have successfully validated multiple BCMA assays by both flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry in selected indications, including multiple myeloma. With the use of these two platforms to assess BCMA, we can consistently provide a broad menu of testing services to support cancer research," said Dr. Hytham Al-Masri, CEO and founder of Hematogenix. "The validation of these tests supports our mission to stay at the forefront of cancer research supporting our current and future pharma partners to provide new treatment solutions for patients diagnosed with cancer."
The BCMA IHC assay has been validated on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue blocks, including decalcified bone marrow core biopsies as a single stain and as a dual stain with other biomarkers such as CD138. Multiple BCMA flow cytometry assays have been validated on bone marrow aspirate, alone or as part of a broader multiple myeloma minimal residual disease panel.

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