Agilent's new MS/LC range conquers the "need for speed"

By Kirsty Barnes

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Agilent Mass spectrometry

Agilent have dived in to grab a slice of the growing $1.3 bn mass
spectrometry market with the launch of a series of new liquid
chromatography-based mass spectrometry (LC/MS) systems that are
cheaper and faster.

With the launch, >Agilent​ - who until recently only addressed a small part of this market with its single quadrupole technology, ion trap and time-of-flight (TOF) instruments - has effectively doubled its potential market to 70 per cent.

Benefits of the new LC/MS products include cost-effectiveness, speed, versatility, improved instrument reliability and ease-of-use that will increase productivity in the lab. In addition, non-experts can use it and this will expand the range of applications for which each product can be used, said the company at a recent press event.

"The new modules in the 6000 series cost around 30-50 per cent less than comparable products in the market,"​ company spokesman Markus Jaquemar told

The new Agilent 6000 Series includes five classes of instruments, two of which are the company's first - triple quadrupole (triple quad) and quadrupole time-of-flight (Q-TOF) mass spectrometers.

The Agilent 6410 Triple Quadrupole offers a femtogram level sensitivity comparable to the most expensive instruments of this class, at a 30 to 50 per cent lower price. It is intended primarily for environmental, food safety, forensics and pharmaceutical applications.

The Agilent 6510 Q-TOF provides 10 times the sensitivity and 10-20 times improved analytical performance compared with the most expensive high-performance Q-TOF instruments currently available and Agilent expects the Q-TOF to become the new instrument of choice for proteomics laboratories.

In-spectra dynamic range, it offers attomole sensitivity, routine mass accuracy better than 3 ppm, and 3.5 orders of magnitude. In data-dependent mode, it enables fast data acquisition at 20 spectra/second or 1 MS and 5 MS/MS per second.

Agilent's new 6000 Series also includes updated versions of the company's existing single quadrupole, ion trap and TOF mass spectrometers that offer increased speed and sensitivity.

The company is pinning its hopes on the success of all these new products to double its current mass spectrometry market share of 6-10 per cent by 2008.

"We are applying the same strategy to succeed in the LC/MS market that we used to become a leader in gas-chromatography/mass spectrometry,"​ said Chris van Ingen, president of Agilent's Life Science and Chemical Analysis business.

"We are introducing products that match or exceed the highest performance in the industry,"​ he said.

Mass spectrometry can be used for both qualitative and quantitative measurement of organic compounds and contaminants through analysis of their ion fragments. It is uses include environmental testing, forensics and proteomics research, as well as drug discovery, development and manufacturing QA/QC.

MC technology is often used in conjunction with a LC, a measurement technology used to separate, identify, quantify and purify compounds, to achieve higher resolution and identification of compounds by their mass and electrical charge.

In order to achieve success with the new LC/MS products, they have been tailored to address the needs identified by customers through market research, primarily speed and reliablility of machinery and consistency of results.

The demand for LC/MS analysis has been increasing over the past decade, such that clinical labs often have to turn around results in less than 24 hours, with little margin for error due to increasingly stringent industry standards.

However, LC/MS can be complex and cumbersome, even for experts. According to the research, major shortcomings of LC/MS instrumentation to date have been the tendency to break down, the need for frequent servicing and the difficulty of use.

"The complexity of mass spectrometers has made them more difficult to use and less reliable than other key analytical instruments, such as chromatographs,"​ said Taia Ergueta, general manager of Agilent's LC/MS business.

"Our research indicated that 25 per cent of currently available LC/MS instruments are not operational at any one time. This is an incredible figure when you consider the amount of time and money being wasted,"​ she said.

To meet the demands for greater productivity, labs are calling for faster and simpler testing instruments that can be used by staff with less technical training.

In designing the new Agilent 6000 Series, engineers have focused on addressing these problems and have come up with solutions that are unique to Agilent's products.

One such feature is "autotune", a push-button automatic calibration mechanism that saves customers from having to either calibrate the instrument manually or call a service technician, which decreases the data quality or uptime of the instrument, as is the case with competing products.

In addition the 6000 series also features integrated LC and MS software to allow a single point of instrument control and data analysis, as well as providing a range of application-specific software programs that allow researchers to quickly get answers to any problems they are trying to solve, including the option to use a new Web-based help desk.

Furthermore, walk-away automation of instrument runs, automated quantification via software and new software for easy compound finding and identification are also features of the 6000 series, which are also compatible with Agilent's existing multi-mode ion source and HPLC-Chip/MS systems.

"We believe that the user-friendly improvements in these products will attract not only existing mass spectrometry users, but open the gates to a whole new generation of scientists and technicians who will use them in wider applications in analysis, validation and bioanalysis,"​ said Ergueta.

In anticipation of the new product range, Agilent has shifted all production of its GC/MS instruments to its plant in Shanghai, China, and the new LC/MS range will be made in its Delaware, US, facility, which it plans to expand upon in the future.

Looking to the future, in light of the anticipated double-digit market growth of LC and LC/MS in Asia over the next five years, Agilent is also in the process of building infrastructure to be able to capitalise on this market, said Jaquemar.

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