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Simple Software for an Advanced Industry

Wed, 06/11/2014 - 9:24am
Michelle Taylor, Editor

Users are turning to increasingly simple chromatography data systems to handle increasingly complex processes. 

It’s no secret that the chromatography market is rapidly expanding, driven in part by growing environmental concerns, rising crime rate, questions over the safety and security of human life, as well as increasing health issues of an aging population. According to a market report by Transparency Market Research published in May, the chromatography market is expected to reach $8.9 billion by 2017, up from $6.6 billion in 2011. Of course, this kind of growth was expected, even anticipated. It was a different number from the report that made a splash—the market for advanced chromatography is expected to reach $1.4 billion by 2017 (up from $1.0 billion in 2011). Advanced chromatography, in terms of the report, is defined as the adoption of advanced and innovative chromatographic techniques, such as ion and flash chromatography. 

While welcomed in the ever-increasing demand for more technology, advanced chromatographic techniques usher in a host of increasingly complex analytical tools, processes and computational methods. The data produced as a result of this advanced technology needs to be both managed and interpreted effectively and efficiently—and that’s where chromatography data systems (CDS) fit into the growing $8.9 billion industry. 

According to results from surveys conducted by the editors of Laboratory Equipment, most researchers—regardless of industry and/or technique—desire instruments and supporting infrastructure that are simple. Neither lab managers nor researchers wish to spend their time training; instead, simple solutions that users can readily adapt with no prior experience are in hot demand. 

In addition to a growing need for advanced technique control and simplicity, there are other characteristics a good CDS possesses. These include:

• multi-vendor instrument control

• rapid deployment

• security; and

• interoperability

• support, training and validation services from the manufacturer

• regulatory compliance features, including electronic signature ability

• scalability and adaptability: odds are, in another 10 years, we will still be talking about the advancing technology needs of the industry. So, installing a software solution that can handle increasing, complex loads is imperative.

New product offerings

Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, Mass., has successfully balanced an advancing industry with simple user needs with its Chromeleon 7.2 CDS Service Release 1. The service release adds both liquid and ion chromatography support to the already popular and powerful CDS software. It adds full control for the Thermo Scientific MSQ single quadrupole system, TSQ Quantiva and Endura triple quadrupole instruments and the Orbitrap-based mass spec systems. 

Agilent’s OpenLAB CDS provides chromatography data acquisition, processing and control of GC and LC chromatographs, and can be used in chromatography operations ranging from single user/single instrument to multi-user/multi-instrument laboratories.

“With this new release, we’re responding to growing customer demand to apply high-sensitivity, information-rich MS techniques for quantitative applied analyses. Chromeleon CDS’s ease-of-use makes mass spec technology more accessible for routine operation,” says Christoph Nickel, Global Software Marketing Director, Chromatography for Thermo Fisher Scientific.

The CDS enables lab personnel to learn only one software package for the operation of a variety of chromatography and mass spectrometry instruments. This greatly reduces training requirements while improving productivity, efficiency and quality of results. The software also features one-click eWorkflows, designed to help users reduce method development time and quickly run and analyze samples. Built-in spreadsheet-type reporting eliminates the need to export data.

Agilent Technologies, Santa Clara, Calif., has recently expanded its OpenLAB CDS to improve instrument cooperation, and specifically offer solutions for chemical and petrochemical labs. The Sample Scheduler for OpenLAB CDS EZChrom Edition provides master sequence control by integrating all chromatography systems into a single user interface. The master sequence gives labs the ability to streamline the analytical workflow by linking LIMS to CDS, eliminating the otherwise numerous manual steps required to transfer sample information and results between the two platforms. 

For example, samples entered into the LIMS automatically appear in the Sample Scheduler, where they can then be submitted to any CDS-controlled system on the network for analysis. After acquisition, data is automatically exported back to the LIMS. 

Overall, this CDS system meets user needs by increasing sample throughput through workflow automation; reducing transcription errors, thus enhancing accuracy and reliability of results; and optimizing instrument use through better workload distribution. 

DataApex’s Clarity CDS software steps up the interoperability with the control of more than 450 different instruments from one environment, including those by some of the largest manufacturers in the business. Up to four independent chromatography systems can be simultaneously connected, each acquiring up to 32 signals.

The system features optional software modules for data acquisition, data processing and instrument control. Its wide range of data acquisition interfaces allows connection to almost any chromatograph. The Control modules provide integrated control of selected instruments, while the Extensions provide functions for specific separation techniques. DataApex’s Clarity CDS enables the control of more than 450 instruments from various vendors, all within a single environment.

Additionally, DataApex has released a MS Extension that enhances the platform’s capabilities. Clarity can now evaluate spectral data with MS detectors together with data from conventional HPLC detectors, and add the third dimension for data analysis. The CDS can provide interactive spectral analysis, peak purity analysis and compound identification based on spectral library search. The MS Extension can function with single quadrupole MS and TOF/MS detectors. 

In a departure from the norm, researchers only need to consult the Internet for a viable CDS alternative. OpenChrom (www.openchrom.net) is an open source software for chromatography and mass spectrometry based on the Eclipse Rich Client platform. Its main focus is handling native mass spectrometry data files. For example, any mass spectrometry data generated by GCMS, LCMS, HPLC/MS, ICP/MS or MALDI/MS may be imported directly, without prior conversion, for visualization and evaluation. OpenChrom supports various vendor data formats in addition to common formats, such as NetCDF, .csv or mzXML. OpenChom is ideal for data analysis purposes, including processing, visualization and reporting. The implemented batch-processing features allow high-throughput evaluation. 

Additionally, given the open source platform, the software is continuously growing and adapting as needed. Extensions are always welcomed on the flexible solution, which allows others to implement their own methods, algorithms, filters, detectors or integrators. Scalability and adaptability issues go out the window with an open source solution. 

In addition to a free community edition, OpenChrom also offers tailor-made enterprise editions, which include features requested by customers and rapid service to ensure maintenance-free high-throughput data processing. 

A well-managed future

One way to boost the productivity of a lab is to simplify operations. Centralizing data management functions onto a single CDS platform helps do this by eliminating the need to service, manage and train personnel on multiple systems. In an ideal world, all separation equipment funnels into one centrally managed CDS. This simple-to-use CDS caters to personnel, offering all lab data when, where and as needed. With full access to current and historical data, productivity soars and the ultimate end goal is reached—faster development and release of product. 

There is no doubt the chromatography industry will continue to experience more and more advanced techniques. While advancing, complex technology may not necessarily go hand-in-hand with simplicity, it does not mean a balanced marriage between the two is impossible. After all, lab science manufacturers will have advanced technology to guide them through the complexities of a simple future. 

 

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