We recently attended this year’s HPLC show, which took place just two weeks after our ZipChip™ debuted at ASMS. Also known as the International Symposium on High Performance Liquid Phase Separations and Related Technologies, HPLC brings together the greatest minds in liquid chromatography, capillary electrophoresis (CE), and related technologies. Although it was our first year attending, we were really encouraged by the enthusiasm for ZipChip. In fact, our very first visitor, who arrived at the booth as the show doors opened, had been sent via recommendation from a current ZipChip user. Word travels fast!

The Focus on Separations

Attending both ASMS and HPLC mere weeks apart provided valuable perspective on the needs of the life science industry. Attendees at both shows were often combining separations with mass spectrometry (MS). However, ASMS attendees tended to focus heavily on the mass spec side and view front-end separation simply as a way to get samples into an MS. Conversely, HPLC attendees commonly focused on the separation element and often talked about MS as “just the detector.”

This shift in focus was interesting to experience. Despite having a very similar end goal, the questions asked by both sets of attendees, and the conversations at each event, were very different. The majority of the folks we spoke with at HPLC were intimately familiar with traditional separation capabilities and the pain points associated with current processes, such as long run times, large sample volume requirements and, for areas like protein analysis, compatibility between good separation techniques and mass spectrometers. Many were already familiar with CE and utilize it as a stand-alone technique today. They understood the physics behind ZipChip’s technology and, as a result, they were more focused on how ZipChip improves on traditional CE with our microfluidic implementation.

At the end of the day, everyone working in biopharma is looking for an end-to-end solution to do the analysis they need simply, quickly and effectively. The fact that ZipChip can perform analysis on a broad range of matrices in three minutes, compared to the average 30 minutes it takes with traditional CE instruments, was a key differentiator for a lot of people.

Bridging the Gap: Developing a Simple, Fast, End-to-End Solution

While this desire for an all-in-one solution may seem obvious, historically, users have had to configure and buy separate complex chromatography and MS systems for their analyses.   Our goal in developing ZipChip was to prove that application-focused, advanced separations devices don’t have to come in highly complex packages.

To accomplish this, the ZipChip interface seamlessly mounts as an alternate source on a traditional mass spectrometer and uses integrated microfluidic technology to prepare, separate and then electrospray (ESI) biological samples into the MS. This technique leverages the fundamentals of separation science in a way that is simpler and faster than traditional approaches.

By cutting hours off total preparation and analysis time, ZipChip enables the study of more samples and eliminates the need to be highly discriminating in which samples are run.

What Lies Ahead

In addition to the exhibition, there were also some exceptional presentations at HPLC. Dr. Nic Angell of Amgen, presented on ‘Chip CE for Protein Therapeutics.’ His session provided an enlightening, in-depth view into the workflow processes in place for protein therapeutics and the various techniques being applied in that area, including preliminary work showing very fast analysis with chip-based separations.

Our very own Scientific Founder and Director, Prof. J Michael Ramsey, PhD, spoke on microfluidics applications to a full house.  From our 908 Devices team, Senior Research Scientist, Dr. Scott Mellors, also had a very well attended poster at the show on microchip CE.

Since the launch of ZipChip back in March, the reception we have received has been extremely encouraging and this was further reinforced at both ASMS and HPLC. After these experiences, we’re more confident than ever before in the benefits our technology will bring for life science professionals.

Onward and upward!

Chris Petty, VP Business Development and Marketing