Published December 15, 2015
Volume 23, Number 12

Waters' Innovation in Mass Spectrometry Continues to Fuel


Waters Corp
Chengsi (Michelle) Huang, Ph.D., and Andrew Baker, Ph.D. of Waters Corp. with the ionKey mass spectrometer. 

By Jay Hipps

This has been another year of remarkable achievements for Waters Corp., a Boston-based developer and manufacturer of advanced analytical and material science technologies with its key West Coast office in Hacienda. A global, $2 billion company, Waters has seen strong sales this year as well as recognition in the form of the R&D Magazine R&D 100 Award for technological innovation for the ionKey, a new product which allows for detailed chemical analysis of small quantities of materials.
“The ionKey is a microfluidics, ceramic-based technology for people who are looking at very low-level analytes with Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry,” says Steve McDonough, General Manager of Western Business Operations who is based out of the Hacienda office. “You’re dealing with much smaller volumes so just sampling it and getting it into the LCMS that’s going to test it can be problematic. The ‘plug and play’ design of the ionKey Separation Device eliminates operator variability common in traditional micro-flow LC-MS analyses regardless of skill level.”
Clearly, Waters has solved that problem. In a 2014 article in the journal Bioanalysis, Merck scientists beta-testing the ionKey reported that they achieved an overall 20-fold increase in sensitivity for identifying a specific neuropeptide in human plasma, as well as an almost 400% faster run time over more traditional mass spectrometry methods. “The ionKey is technology that has optimized the interface between LC and MS to make it simpler and gain greater precision in the customers results,” says McDonough.
Most of Waters’ key customers — Gilead, Genentech, Amgen, BioMarin, Impax — are in the pharmaceutical or biopharmaceutical field. “We do a lot of work with the UC system, all campuses, and we also do a lot of clinical-based business, which can cover everything from pain management to doping to forensics testing,” says McDonough.
Another area where McDonough anticipates growth is in the testing of foods to verify purity and authenticity. “We have a tool that we call REIMS — Rapid Evaporative Ion Mass Spectrometry — which is a new technology that we have that we’ve commercialized.”
Globally, he explains, there is a fair amount of fraud in some aspects of the food trade. “Snapper, tuna, and cod can be mislabeled, and there is a lot of adulteration going on in honey right now.” The press has noted that some companies in Europe were selling horse meat as beef and different, less expensive oils were being added to olive oil to increase profit margins for wholesalers.
“People have always looked at water to make sure that it’s clean; I think we’re going to see more of that with food,” McDonough says. “That’s where we see some of the next trend in analytical testing.”
The company is poised for growth in other directions as well. In September, Waters Corp. hired Chris O’Connell as president and CEO. O’Connell, previously the president of Medtronic’s Restorative Therapies Group, replacing Doug Berthiaume, who served as Waters’ president and CEO since 1994 and will remain on the company’s board of directors. “We have a number of products specifically designed for the clinical area and Chris brings great insight into the medical device business ” says McDonough.
Despite the change in leadership, McDonough thinks that Waters will hold true to the strategies that has fueled its growth so far. “We deliver innovative products that we can fully support while letting other companies focus on process refining of existing technology,” he says. “With solutions like ionKey and REIMS technology,  we bring new capabilities to or customers which we back up with an extensive world renowned service organization.”
For additional information on the company, access www.waters.com.


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