Working even closer

Waters Corp. and University of Warwick turn decades-long relationship into major deal to advance adoption of novel MS technology

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MILFORD, Mass.—Waters Corp. in mid-April signed a collaborative research agreement with the University of Warwick, Coventry and Warwickshire, England, that is aimed at supporting the growth, development and adoption of novel mass spectrometry (MS) technologies, including Waters' SYNAPT High Definition MS (HDMS) system.

More than just an agreement to join forces for research projects, articles in peer-reviewed journals and joint presentations at international conferences, the deal also includes an educational outreach program and includes the establishment of The Waters Centre for BioMedical Mass Spectrometry at the University of Warwick. Designed to be a center of excellence in state-of-the-art MS techniques, this center will offer scientists worldwide "an accessible resource to enable the adoption of cutting edge LC/MS-based techniques in life science," according to Jeff Tarmy, manager of corporate communications for Waters.

"With the technological advancements in MS and other factors, it was a good time for Waters and the university to work together in the common aims of not only showcasing the excellent Waters technology, but also giving Waters a real-life test bed for some of their exciting developments yet to come in MS," says Prof. James Scrivens of the Department of Biological Sciences at University of Warwick. "Moreover, all of this will be tied into the teaching and coursework at Warwick and will tie into our collaborations with organization in growth areas in Asia and North America."

In addition, with a strong link to Boston University—as well as to several other academic institutions worldwide, the University of Warwick has a kind of geographical proximity to Waters despite being in the United Kingdom, note Scrivens and Mark McDowall, strategic development manager, mass spectrometry in the Waters Division of Waters Corp., who have known each other and collaborated at times for well over 20 years, both when Scrivens worked in industry and since he turned to academia.

"The University of Warwick is consistently ranked amongst the top research universities, with an historic track record in biological mass spectrometry," says Brian Smith, vice president of Mass Spectrometry Operations for Waters. "However, this agreement is not based on reputation alone; it is based on a long-standing relationship with the University and Prof. James Scrivens in particular. Waters looks forward to taking this relationship to the next level through mutually beneficial research and a world-class educational resource for life scientists adopting cutting edge MS-based research strategies."

The overarching goal is not simply to foster adoption of novel MS technologies like those that Waters offers, nor to simply boost Warwick's research capabilities, but rather to have a positive and meaningful impact on the ability of researchers and analysts worldwide to effectively use biomedical mass spectrometry.

"One of the strengths of our collaborations recently and going forward has been around the field of biological ion mobility, not just mass spec," McDowall notes. "So one of the unique technologies we've developed—and SYNAPT is an example of this—is a system that combine high-performance mass spectrometry with high-performance ion mobility. This gives us a way of beginning to look at the structure of proteins or infer the structures of them as they interact with ligands and such."

"Indeed, mass spectrometry is evolving," Scrivens adds, "into something that involves more than just measuring mass. People are interested not just in size anymore but also in shape, and that is what we can offer. It is an area that will be key to future MS-related work in the industry. Biological mass spectrometry gives us insight into complex biochemical pathways that simply isn't possible with any other approach."

Scrivens sees particular value for the technology in medical diagnostics and biomarker development, and he has special interest in seeing it put to use in dealing with disease related to pregnancy, such as preeclampsia, which Scrivens says is the biggest killer of young women in the United Kingdom, and Down syndrome.

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