Quantitation is changing as new discoveries are made. Are you prepared to tackle the future challenges in Quantitation? Traditional quantitation was fueled by the knowledge of what compounds and/or contaminants were present in each sample. Scientists knew what they were testing and were able to rely on proven and well-tested technologies to quantify the target analytes. The triple quadrupole MS as a part of LC-MS/MS technology gained popularity for traditional quantitation as it enabled scientists to quantify their results.
The landscape for analytical laboratories has evolved and as a result; quantitation is not as straight forward as it was in the past. One example is how pharmaceutical companies are transitioning from focusing solely on small molecule medications to adding complex proteins and other bio-therapeutics to their pipelines. These complex and diverse types of medications require more advanced instrumentation in quantitation to accommodate it. It is important that analytical testing remains accurate to make sure the medications that are released are not contaminated and are safe for consumers. This broadening of the market means that increased flexibility of today’s instrumentation is critical as one workflow is no longer sufficient.
Food safety and environmental analytical needs are changing as well and are having an impact on quantitation workflows. Agriculture has battled many different pests over the years but as more of them become resistant to current pesticides, more complex formulations are being utilized. Farmers utilize antibiotics to help keep their cows healthy and strong and those compounds are appearing in the meat we eat and the milk we drink. New plastics and nanotechnology, while bringing cool, new consumables to the average consumer, have also introduced untested contaminants to the environment, without the data to confirm their presence. The increased diversity in the pharmaceutical industry means that more complex pharmaceuticals in addition to pesticides are appearing in the environment and on the food we eat. As a result, food testing labs that ensure food safety, and environmental safety labs that ensure clean surface or drinking water have a harder task ahead of them. For scientists working in food safety labs, determining the concentration of a certain compound on an apple is no longer enough. They first need to identify any contaminants, like pesticides, that are on the apple and then quantify each of them. Thus, there is a need for a platform solution with the right combination of LC, MS, and software to enable them to proactively search for unknowns, identify those unknowns, and to quantify knowns with a robust, reliable, sensitive targeted quantitation workflow.
Another interesting trend in quantitation is the industry shift from analytical testing in-house to utilizing contract research organizations (CROs.) CROs focus more on saving money and increasing efficiency. My own experience working as an entry level scientist at a CRO proved that no matter what skill level, every scientist in the lab had to be capable of operating every instrument for a variety of customers. CROs do not have the funds to buy the latest and greatest, nor do they have the funds to hire a large team of Ph.Ds. to run the instruments for testing. They utilize entry level scientists that are not familiar with the intricacies of interpreting spectra, and they focus on using low cost and robust instruments that will get the job done quickly and reliably. The instruments need to be easier to use so they can be operated by the entry level chemist, and they need to be capable of handling a large variety of compounds.
These trends have fueled the need for instruments, software and connectivity to combine into flexible workflows. The differences between high-end laboratories and CROs means that these workflows need to accommodate the needs of both, whether high-end precision or less expensive robustness and ease-of-use. They need an instrument like the high resolution accurate mass spectrometer (HRAM) to perform screening and quantification, and the triple quadrupole technology that is sensitive enough to detect small amounts with great accuracy. While these are small examples of changes in a highly complex industry for mass spectrometry, it shows how much has evolved in the last 10 years, and foreshadows a lot of changes for the future.
This evolution of Quantitation may not be present in every lab, but the effect will be felt by all in the near future. With increased complexity of compounds and regulatory demands becoming more stringent, it is important to understand what is changing in your particular industry. With those changes, having the right instrument and overall workflow that can tackle the challenges you will face will be critical to succeeding in the future. Depending on what your company does on a daily basis you may need a high resolution mass spectrometer (HRAM) or a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer, but either way you need to ensure you find a comprehensive solution for all your needs that can be utilized by any expertise. If you want to find out more about how Quantitation is changing and how it may affect your lab, click here.