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Agilent aims to conquer LC/MS
Key among them is the new 6000 Series LC/MS line, which comprises five classes of instruments, including the company's first triple quadrupole (triple quad) and quadrupole time-of-flight (Q-TOF) mass spectrometers.
With these additional instruments, Agilent now will be able to address nearly 70 percent of the estimated $1.3 billion LC/MS instrument market by 2008—more than double its current market opportunity. The 6000 Series also includes improved versions of Agilent's single quadrupole, ion trap and TOF mass spectrometers.
Another key addition to its product lines is the 1200 Series LC system, replacing its 1100 Series LC. The technology is used by more than 250,000 customers worldwide in applications that extend beyond pharmaceuticals and protein research and into such applications as areas as forensics and food safety, Agilent notes. Moreoever, the LC space represents a $2 billion market overall and is one of the largest sources of revenue for Agilent's life science and chemical analysis business.
"We are applying the same strategy to succeed in the LC/MS market that we used to become a leader in GC/MS," says 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, while also providing a level of reliability and ease-of-use that will make customers' work easier, increase their productivity and expand the breadth of applications for which they can use each product."
This bodes well for drug discovery efforts and for Agilent's ability to gain more drug discovery customers, notes John Fjeldsted, the hardware research and development manager for LC/MS products at Agilent.
"There are a lot of analytical requirements that need to be met in terms of drug discovery, and what we're doing here at Agilent is covering a greater portion of those analytical needs than ever before," Fjeldsted says. In addition, the new product lines represent improvements both in qualitative and quantitative analytical performance, he says, something he doesn't believe the competition is doing in tandem.
The company is also aiming to get the technology into the hands of not just personnel in the core labs but also in other parts of the companies.
"Take the Q-TOF instrumentation, for example," Fjeldsted says. "It's focused on the core labs, but people outside the core labs also want to access the kind of analytical data it offers for their own work, such as results that might lead to better structural identification for potential drug compounds. So we needed a new level of ease-of-use and reliability to get the technology to those people. We started that work back in 2003, but now we're continuing to provide and improve that ease-of-use for the bigger brothers of our earlier products, like the 6510 quad system we have now. What we want is unprecedented mass spec accuracy that is transparent to the user."
The complexity of mass spectrometers has traditionally made them more difficult to use and less reliable than other key analytical instruments, such as chromatographs, adds Taia Ergueta, general manager of Agilent's LC/MS business. "We believe that improvements [we have made] in this area will attract not only existing mass spectrometry users, but open the gates to a whole new generation of scientists and technicians."