The Best of Pittcon 2007

Couldn’t make the trip to Chicago? The weather outside was frightful, but the technology was cutting edge. Ease of use and openness were the themes this year.

By Agnes Shanley, Bill Swichtenberg and Heidi Parsons

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Pharma may be only one of many industries addressed by the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, but this year’s Pittcon, held in a snowy and blustery Chicago last month, provided a feast for any lover of process analytics. Instruments introduced at the show are tackling some of pharma’s biggest technical challenges, from analyzing large, complex biomolecules to characterizing raw material quality outside of the lab.

Waters Corp.'s Synapt HDMS
Waters Corp.'s Synapt High Definition Mass Spectrometer took the Gold Award in this year's Pittcon Editors' Awards competition.

Analytical equipment manufacturers want to be viewed as partners instead of product pushers. “If you’re a drug manufacturer, why would you need or want to become an expert on every analytical instrument?” asked Simon Wells, the molecular spectroscopy business manager at PerkinElmer Life and Analytical Sciences (Shelton, Conn.,, whose. Spectrum 400 combines optimized near and mid infrared (NIR and MIR) in a single, instrument. Users can switch between sampling positions easily, facilitating analysis, troubleshooting and productivity, he said. Axsun (, Aspetrics (, Bruker Optics ( and other vendors touted hand held NIR and other spectroscopy devices, as well as monitoring systems for unit operations.

Also emphasizing user friendliness, and permitting “parallel processing” in the lab are Dionex Corp.’s (Sunnyvale, Calif., Ultimate Intelligent LC systems, designed to allow users to automate different liquid chromatography (LC) methods on a single system.

Proprietary is Passé, Outsourcing’s in Favor

Proprietary solutions are also disappearing, and competitors are working on interconnectable solutions. At Pittcon, Waters Corp. (Milford, Mass., and Shimadzu Scientific Instruments (Columbia, Md.; disclosed that they will jointly develop software, based on Waters’ Empower chromatography software, that will control Shimadzu’s Prominence liquid chromatography (LC) systems. Waters has similar alliances with Hitachi and Agilent.

Maintenance is also crossing vendor boundaries, as more vendors offer cross-vendor service outsourcing. PerkinElmer, through its OneSource model, provides computerized diagnostic equipment and detailed instrument information specific to the year of instrument manufacture, model and serial number to provide preventative maintenance on all analytical instruments, regardless of manufacturer. “The end result is convenience and cost savings,” says Wells. Agilent ( ) offers a similar program, and expects demand for such services to grow by 40% per year.

Entering the fray at Pittcon 2007 was Beckman Coulter (, which introduced its SiteMAX asset management solutions, a comprehensive instrument maintenance and service program. With the program, Beckman Coulter assumes service ownership and maintenance expense risk for customers’ laboratory equipment while providing guaranteed cost reductions.

Founders Walk the Floor; Bioanalytics Sweeps Top Awards

Paraytec's ActiPix
Pittcon Editors gave Paraytec's ActiPix capillary-based UV absorbance detector a Silver Award.

Some of the analytical instrumentation industry’s pioneers, such as Waters Corp.’s Jim Waters, could be seen in the convention center hallways or walking the floor. Also in attendance was Jim Schwartz, founder of BioRad (, who received the Heritage Award this year. There was the usual educational program for high school kids, and an extensive range of technical presentations, with most of the presentations on pharmaceutical process analytical technologies (PAT) reserved for the last few days of the conference.

One focus at the show was analytics designed to detect subtle changes in complex proteins and other biomolecules. Many of these systems are based on mass spectroscopy.

Shimadzu introduced AXIMA-TOF2 high-performance MALDI TOF-TOF mass spectrometer, and showcased new software for its MS systems, notably a Formula Predictor designed for its LCMS-IT-TOF mass spectrometer, which uses multiple levels of fragmentation, isotope pattern verification, and fragment-ion filtering techniques to accurately determine the correct formula for unknown components; its GCMSsolution 2.5 software, featuring an Automatic Adjustment of Retention Time (AART) function that saves considerable time during analysis preparation.

MS also took first place in Pittcon’s Editors’ Award for best product this year. Winning the Gold was Waters’ Synapt High Definition Mass Spectrometer (HDMS) (for more on this, including access to a video demo and a brief interview with company founder Jim Waters, click here).

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