Waters starts roll-out of AcQuity UPLC

Related tags Chromatography High performance liquid chromatography

Waters has started shipping its new 'ultra performance liquid
chromatography' (UPLC) system AcQuity, first introduced to the
laboratory sector at the Pittcon exhibition earlier this year and
the winner of the gold award for the best new product.

The new system is claimed to significantly improve productivity in the lab by giving scientists chromatographic run times up to nine times shorter than the fastest current HPLC systems.

AcQuity achieves these speed increases by using novel sub two-micron particles that accelerate chromatographic run times and also double peak capacity or resolution. It offers 'more information from a single run than anything today's HPLC systems can provide', claims the firm.

By contrast, present-day separations columns are typically-packed with five-micron particles. Theory holds that the smaller the particle, the greater the separation efficiency.

"It all adds up to productivity - making scientists more efficient, allowing them to do more with the time they have,"​ said Waters​ divisional president Art Caputo.

"Our customers are in a race. And the rewards go to those who reach the finish line first with a new drug, or who can release a product from manufacturing faster."

This view would appear to be shared by Standard & Poor's which in a recent commentary on the company said that AcQuity appears to have been well-received, with customer adoption 'high and wide-ranging'.

During the company's 27 July second quarter earnings conference call, Waters' management said that AcQuity UPLC shipments had been held back slightly from the second to the third quarter to allow additional manufacturing testing and software evaluation.

The company expects the major customers for AcQuity to be customers with high sensitivity and resolution requirements, for example those working in segments such as biomarker and protein analysis. However, it is also attracting a lot of interest from the quality control sector.

Waters' second-quarter net income rose 42 per cent because of rising customer demand - particularly in the pharmaceutical and industrial sectors - and product expansion.

The company posted quarterly earnings of $59.8 million, or 49 cents per share, up from $42.1 million, or 33 cents last year. Second-quarter sales rose to $260.5 million from $231.8 million last year, based on 9 per cent growth before currency effects, and a 3 per cent benefit from foreign exchange, it added.

Waters is the world's largest manufacturer of high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) instruments and consumables - a category that makes up approximately 70 per cent of its 2003 net sales. It has the largest market share in the US, Europe, and Asia, with the exception of Japan where it is among the market leaders.

In turn, HPLC is the largest product segment of the analytical-instrument market. These devices are used in many industries, particularly pharmaceutical and life sciences, to monitor and measure the composition of materials and to purify compounds.

If AcQuity can capture a significant chunk of the HPLC market, the rewards to Waters could be significant, according to S&P, given that the system and consumables cost 20-25 per cent more than the firm's HPLC offerings. But its high price tag could be a brake on take-up, it added.

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