Creating a New Mass Spec Platform with AstraZeneca

Written by Bioscribe and Labcyte on May 24, 2018

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Jonathan Wingfield, Principal Scientist at AstraZeneca, UK, likes to push the boundaries of what’s possible in high-throughput screening, and he is using the power of sound to do so.

Dr. Wingfield, presented the benefits of acoustic mass spectrometry (MS) at PITTCON 2018 (The Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy), highlighting his collaboration with Labcyte and Waters to create a prototype system that will ultimately be made available to the wider scientific community.

“Acoustic mass spectrometry offers us the ability to screen very, very quickly in a very clean way,” Wingfield said. “This is a huge benefit for the high-throughput screening community. As a result, we are able to have a direct measurement of substrate to product conversion, and that's great because we don't have to buy extra reagents. We also don't have to buy labels, which obviously add cost.”


Another benefit is that acoustic mass spectrometry enables assays to be built very quickly. A rapid proof of concept can be performed using the mass spec to see whether an enzyme can convert substrates into products. With positive results, it’s a relatively quick process to have an assay ready for high-throughput screening.

“The use of acoustics is exciting because it gives us an opportunity to use all of the advantages of acoustics, such as low volume sample handling and high-throughput potential, in a way that's not been used in terms of coupling it to mass spectrometry in the past,” Wingfield said.

In an interview posted recently on News Medical, Wingfield described how an Echo® 555 Liquid Handler was modified to bring the transducer outside of the instrument. An assay plate that moves in an x-y motion sits on top of the transducer which ejects droplets from the plate into a transfer line coupled to a mass spectrometer. The transducer is tuned so that it generates a much smaller droplet that's easier to ionize and creates a better signal in the mass spectrometer. “By coupling the acoustic front end to a standard time of flight or triple quad mass spec, we can achieve throughputs of around three samples per second,” Wingfield says.

“At that sort of throughput, we're able to process more than 100,000 samples per day and half a million samples per week. Last year we ran a full collection screen, 2.2 million samples, and to date we've probably processed around about 5 million samples through the platform. This is something we've never been able to do in the past with a single MS system.”

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