www.rdmag.com August 2014 R&DMagazine 13
continually changing. This fast rate of change
is a challenge on the timescale of instrument
development, but is also a great opportunity
for new, high-impact product contributions.”
Instrument platforms need to be designed so
they can evolve over time and support broad
Support for life science research
As life science researchers’ workloads become more
challenging as they face more samples and try to
extract more information out of every run, technologies like ultra-fast mass spectrometry are more
prevalent. Technologies such as Shimadzu Scientific Instruments’ LCMS-8050 triple quadrupole
mass spectrometers enable fast scanning speeds
of 30,000 u/sec and ultra-fast polarity switching
speeds. Whether researchers are detecting target
compounds at trace-level concentrations or performing simultaneous quantitative and qualitative
analyses, faster scanning speeds enable more ana-lytes to be measured on a single run.
Protea Biosciences also focuses on direct
sample analysis by mass spectrometer. For
life science researchers, the company offers an
opportunity for quick, prep-free analysis of
biological samples for a variety of applications,
including mass spec imaging, in vivo analysis of
microbiological samples and biofluid analysis.
Their laser ablation electrospray ionization mass
spectrometry (LAESI-MS) technology provides
information about the biomolecular signature
or profile for these samples that can be used to
better understand biochemical pathways, biodynamics and mechanisms of disease.
Life science research is now applied beyond
traditional health care markets into other industrial markets through cellular reprogramming
methodologies such as synthetic biology. DNA is
used to program cells to become cellular factories
to produce high-value chemicals and intermediates. “These synthetic biology approaches, such as
metabolite profiling by LC-MS, leverage systems
and integrated biology capabilities, transitioning
the utilization of life science research equipment
into energy, chemicals, food and other industrial
markets,” says Solomon.
The future, according to vendors
All vendors surveyed say the future for life science research is bright and is a top priority on
every continent, in both developed and developing economies. This reigns true as there’s a lot of
biology to understand.
With this trend noted, life science equip-
ment will continue to progress to better, faster,
smaller and more sensitive forms. Advances in
nanotechnology and microfluidics are on the
forefront of this movement, according to Powell.
Improvements in detectors, optics and sam-
ple handling are enabling these changes. And,
increasingly, academic laboratories are pushing
technological advances that are licensed by
biotechnology companies for commercial devel-
opment alone or in combination with other
platforms. “This type of academia-biotech tech-
nology co-development will help drive innova-
tions in life science equipment,” says Powell.
“The globalization of the markets isn’t over
yet in our segment,” says Mark Merli, product
director of centrifugation, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, Mass. “Besides the historical
brands with several years of presence in the
business, we see an increasing number of young
companies with important intellectual property
achievements that are scaling-up production
and market penetration.” With travel becoming
easier and information technologies to bridge
the distances, there will be a wider range of
products and brands available for selection,
which will increase competition and provide
users a higher chance of finding what they need
at an affordable price.
The future also holds more sensitive and faster instrumentation, along with more integrated
platforms that automate previously discordant
and tedious processes. By leveraging technologies such as ultra-fast mass spectrometry, powerful new sample prep strategies and automated
processing workstations, the future offers the
opportunity for greater multiplexed systems,
according to Kuzdzal. With the development of
new, cloud-based data processing and sharing
strategies, research will benefit from faster analysis and processing speed. “The very basis of
scientific discovery, the global sharing of experimental results, will be infinitely simpler and
faster and life science research will step forward
into the cloud-age,” says Kuzdzal.
How efficient, cost-effective and easy to use is the
current life science equipment on the market?
R&D Magazine surveyed its readers to find out.
What life science equipment do respondents
typically use? Topping the list were reagents
(64%), freezers (60%), sample prep tools (59%),
mixers/stirrers (53%) and temperature control
devices (51%). Many respondents note use of
their life science equipment for biological sample
analysis, DNA profiling, proteomics and disease
research and drug design and development.
Of our respondents, the majority (36%) use
Thermo Fisher Scientific’s life science equip-
ment, followed by Agilent Technologies (17%)
and Beckman Coulter (10%). Other companies
were also represented such as Bio-Rad Labo-
ratories, EMD Millipore, Shimadzu Scientific
Instruments, Eppendorf and Integra Bioscience.
What are the important trends respondents
have seen in this equipment in the past three
years? The top answer is accuracy (60%). Other
trends that users found important are sensitivity
(58%), automation (56%), speed (51%) and
resolution (50%). Some respondents also noted
simplicity (42%) and cost increases (42%). As
the equipment gets more sensitive, users can
detect minute amounts of DNA or samples and
are able to achieve results with greater accuracy
and reproducibility. As technology throughput
is enhanced, this enables cost reduction and
large-scale projects for life science laboratories.
Advancements in automation allows work to
get done faster and helps solve the shortage and
high cost of professionals.
With the improvements noted, what do
respondents want to see improve in the next
three years? While cost has already decreased,
45% of respondents still want to see cost
reduction in the technology. More simplicity
continues to be on the wish list of 43% of the
respondents, while more sensitivity is wanted
by 40%. These statistics show the rapid changes
in the life science industry and that the equipment must keep pace, along with the need to
analyze smaller samples more effectively. This
also reflects the trend of a more automated
approach, where researchers need instruments
that they can walk away from it and operate
remotely to save precious research time. Having a simple operating system and procedures
allows for all employees, even the non-experts,
to correctly operate the machines.
How do the respondents see life science
research equipment supporting future research?
Some respondents see there will be more
automation in the future, as more data will be
generated. The analysis and interpretation of
such data can be better supported by life science
equipment for laboratories to produce more
journal articles and citations. Others note life
science equipment will help in the diagnosing of
disease and improve treatments for these diseases, some of which include cancer and HIV.