Pittcon 2008 Informatics Review

New Orleans provided plenty to keep attendees occupied


New Orleans was very welcoming to Pittcon and the weather was definitely a number of orders of magnitude better than what last year's venue, Chicago, was
THERE WERE 1,110 companies in the Pittcon 2008 Exposition, occupying 2457 booths. 

experiencing at the time. However, it seemed that many found the Big Easy anything but easy to get to. Horror stories abounded of missed connections and uncaring airlines (we'll not mention the name of the helpful airline that was going to take two days to get their unfortunate passengers the rest of the way to New Orleans). However, once there, travelers found plenty to keep themselves occupied.

While it was obvious that the city was still struggling to recover from Katrina, and some long-established businesses were gone for good, there were plenty of new ones that had secured a foothold. The street car was back in operation and the French Quarter was as decadent as ever! Of course, once the exhibition opened, all attention shifted back to the convention center.

Attendance was down slightly this year, with a total attendance of 19,536 compared to that of 22,213 last year, but on a par with that of Pittcon 2006. A good chunk of that difference can be attributed to vendors sending fewer staff to man the booths, with a cut of 1,479. Of the 1,198 drop in non-exhibitor attendees, the majority was due to 966 fewer one-day passes. I suspect that much of this can be explained by the difference in density of manufacturing, research and educational facilities surrounding New Orleans as compared to Chicago.

The following is a summary of laboratory informatics-related exhibitors we observed at Pittcon. The vendor summaries are derived from conversations on the floor, e-mailed responses, and extracts from press releases or their Web sites, depending on availability and vendor responsiveness.

The topic of automation can cover a lot of ground. In this context, I've included everything that might aid in the automation of an analytical process that doesn't fall into one of our other categories. Items to be found here range from barcode printers and readers to robotics.

Beckman Coulter has been involved with laboratory informatics for a long time. Many might still be familiar with, or even still using, some of the LIMS systems from their old Laboratory Automation Operations (LAO) division. During Pittcon, they strongly emphasized their industrial robotics product line.

Brady emphasized their extensive line of barcode printers, scanners and label media. This included labels stock usable down to -80 degrees centigrade and up to autoclave temperatures and resistant to exposure from harsh chemicals and abrasion.

Labtronics is a provider of software products used to link a variety of instruments with laboratory information management systems (LIMS) and chromatography data systems (CDS). These include sophisticated programs like LimsLink and LimsLink CDS, as well as simpler systems, such as Collect.

Formerly known as Siemens Applied Automation, Siemens Energy & Automation is a leading provider of process analyzer technology (PAT) and process analysis systems. They provide the tools to integrate process instruments, from pressure and temperature to process analyzers and process protection devices, into process industry automation systems.

Skalar, well known for their discrete analysis technology for wet chemistry automation, was also exhibiting their robotics systems for automated biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) analysis, pH/electrical conductivity (EC), titrations and sample-prep.

Through their reader hardware and software, SkyeTek enables the pervasive adoption of RFID as intelligent networking technology.

Tomtec provides a line of automated solutions for solid-phase extraction (SPE), high throughput screening (HTS) and genomic research. This includes the AUTOGIZER automated tissue homogenizer and the FORMATTER system for automatically pipetting samples from capped vials to 96-well plates.

Chromatography and spectroscopy
One of the workhorses of the modern laboratory is the chromatography data system (CDS) and its related spectroscopy software. Systems to cover every need were on display, though you sometimes had to dig to find them.

Software products from Advanced Chemistry Development (ACD/Labs) include ACD/AutoChrom, which combines instrument control for Agilent and Waters LC systems with software for rational method development, and ACD/SpecManager Analytical Data Management System (ADMS). This later product can combine support for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), Raman and chromatography data, as well as x-ray powder diffraction (XRPD), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR), ion mobility spectrometry (IMS), physisorption, potentiometry and kinetics (to name only a few).

Among Agilent Technologies diverse analytical offerings on display at Pittcon were their ChemStation Software, EZChrom Elite CDS, and Cerity Chemical for quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) systems.

Ampersand International exhibited their Chrom&Spec family of advanced CDS for gas chromatography (GC), high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and gel permeation chromatography (GPC). These featured new unique algorithms for noise evaluation and filtration, peak approximation, quantification and advanced multi-channel data processing techniques.

DataApex demonstrated the third generation of their Clarity chromatography software. Also exhibited was their Clarity GPC Extension for interactive and automated GPC/size exclusion chromatography (SEC) analysis.

Along with their diverse and innovative lines of chromatographic instrumentation, Dionex exhibited the latest version of Chromeleon, offering broad instrument control and data management capabilities.

eDAQ showcased their PowerChrom CDS, designed to turn a PC or Mac into a chromatography data workstation.

H&A Scientific exhibited a variety of software packages. These included PC/Chrom, a multi-channel chromatography package for HPLC, GC or capillary electrophoresis (CE), and IntelliFORM, a complete solution for characterizing batch reactions using ultraviolet-visible (UV-VIS) spectroscopy, fiber optics and reaction stations and systems.

Along with their full line of thermal analyzers for DSC, differential thermal analysis (DTA), pressure differential scanning calorimeter (PDSC), TGA and simultaneous thermal analysis (STA), Instrument Specialists exhibited their Windows-based Infinity Pro Thermal Analysis software.

In addition to their hardware for HPLC/supercritical-fluid chromatography (SFC), PDR-Chiral demonstrated their Hardware Independent Chromatographic User Interface and their new AutoPDR software.

Shimadzu Scientific Instruments exhibited their GCsolution and LCsolution data systems in conjunction with their CLASS-Agent integrated data management/archiving software, which manages both machine-readable and human-readable data from a variety of Shimadzu instruments, including HPLC, GC, UV-VIS, total organic carbon (TOC) and balances.

StellarNet featured their free SpectraWiz software for controlling the ruggedized UV-VIS and near infrared (NIR) fiber optic spectrometers they manufacture for use in both the laboratory and the field.

Among all of the instruments and software applications that Thermo Scientific exhibited were the Atlas CDS, their Chrom-Card Data System, and their ChromQuest CDS for HPLC and GC instruments.

In addition to their various chromatography and other instruments, Varian showcased their Galaxie chromatography software. Also available is Galaxie Scheduler for advanced multi-instrument/LIMS automation.

While focusing on their new chromatography hardware systems, Waters also exhibited Empower 2, their flagship CDS package for advanced data acquisition, management, processing, reporting and distribution.

In addition to promoting their Loop Modulator for comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography (GCxGC), Zoex was promoting their GC Image Software for analyzing GCxGC data acquired from various GC. This is bundled with their GC Project software for quantitative analysis.

Data acquisition and interfacing
A critical part of laboratory informatics and automation is first getting the data into the system. The following vendors provide a variety of approaches for this critical step.

In addition to their PowerChrom chromatography data systems, eDAQ was promoting their line of e-corder data acquisition systems, which are designed to work with a variety of sensors. They are compatible with both Windows and Macintosh computers via a universal serial bus (USB) interface.

H&A Scientific exhibited ChromWave, an analog-to-digital ?(A/D) interface verification package. It is a complete system designed to verify linearity, reproducibility, and accuracy of A/D interfaces.

HEKA Electronics produces a variety of instruments for electrophysiology and electrochemistry. This includes a number of programs for data acquisition and processing, as well as a line of data acquisition hardware, such as their new high-resolution 16-bit USB interface LIH 8+8. Following the death of Milan Kesler, the founder of InstruTECH, they have acquired many of that company's assets and will continue to manufacture many of their data acquisition devices.

Among Labtronics products is Collect. This application can acquire data from any instrument or device with an RS232, RS485 or transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP) Ethernet interface port directly into any Windows application. It includes a library of pre-defined interfaces for over 500 instruments and devices

Lawson Labs manufactures high-resolution data acquisition systems for chromatography, electrochemistry, thermometry, audio, remote monitoring, and general-purpose data acquisition. Resolutions range from 20- to 24-bit and support serial, USB, TCP/IP and wireless interfaces. They also manufacture stand-alone systems which log data to CompactFlash cards.

The Mettler-Toledo booth was highly visible with prominent displays of their popular line of balances, titrators and other equipment. Those investigating further were impressed with the variety of informatics products displayed to facilitate control of these instruments and the transfer of the generated data into the LIMS. Many of these products fell under their LabX software umbrella, including LabX Balance v.1.4 and LabX Titration v.2.6.

National Instruments introduced version 8.5 of their LabView control and design simulation module. The company continues to be a data acquisition innovator with their diverse line of products and support of virtual instrumentation to increase productivity and lower costs for test, control and design applications through easy-to-integrate software and modular measurement and control hardware.

Data analysis
Once you've acquired the data, you still need to do something with it. Sometimes this is handled through specialty applications, such as a CDS. However, even with these you sometimes need to pull in other tools, whether to determine if the data you have statistically mean anything, or to simply to write up your results. You'll find applications addressing many of these issues here.

Advanced Chemistry Development (ACD/Labs) provides analytical scientists and managers with software for data handling and interpretation. Characterized by easy-to-use chemometric applications, processors, and managers, ACD/Labs' molecular spectroscopy software is actively used in both industrial and academic research facilities around the world.

ASPEX provides a range of automated microanalysis instrumentation tools. Their Perception suite of software products includes a complete set of statistical analysis reporting tools.

Cerno Bioscience's award winning MassWorks software provides novel software solutions for dramatically improving the quality and accuracy of mass spec data from virtually any mass spec instrument. MassWorks also enables formula identification on ion trap and quadrupole systems, instruments not typically known for such applications.

GC Image released version 1.9 of its data processing, analysis and visualization software for (GCxGC) and announced plans to release a version of the software for comprehensive two-dimensional liquid chromatography (LCxLC) at HPLC 2008 in May.

H&A Scientific featured their SLIMStat+, a drug shelf-life projection statistical package. SLIMStat can project expiry periods using either single or pooled stability studies, make decisions as to the validity of pooling studies, and support accelerated (Arrhenius) calculations, trend analysis and back calculation of purity.

Intellection Holdings announced the release of their iDiscover 4.2 mineral analysis software. This new version incorporates enhanced statistical calculations.

Markes International exhibited their ClearView Reprocessing Software. This uses sophisticated dynamic background compensation (DBC) algorithms to distinguish between chromatographic peaks and GC-background/baseline anomalies.

Quality improvement software producer Minitab featured their Minitab Statistical Software package. This was complimented with their new Quality Companion software.

OriginLab was promoting their updated OriginPro 8 software package designed for data analysis and graphing. It includes extended analysis tools for statistics, 3-D fitting, image processing and signal processing.

Silk Scientific was exhibiting their UN-SCAN-IT software, which makes very sophisticated and complex functions look deceptively simple. This tool converts scanned graphs to useful (x,y) data, and can automatically digitize strip charts, instrumental output, published graphs, old graphs, etcetera. Its sister product, UN-SCAN-IT gel software, allows you to automatically analyze and quantify electrophoresis gel images.

Systat Software exhibited their diverse line of statistical analysis and graphing products. These included SYSTAT, SigmaStat, PeakFit and AutoSignal. They also announced the availability of MYSTAT 12 a free streamlined, student-oriented variation of the SYSTAT 12 flagship product for educational use.

Electronic laboratory notebooks
Managing and maintaining all of the data you collect is always a challenge. For instances where you are performing the same type of work repeatedly, a LIMS can be a very good choice. Where this work is more…free form, an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) might be a better choice. The following vendors exhibited some of the variants currently available.

In addition to their other laboratory informatics products, Agilent Technologies was exhibiting the Kalabie ELN. This is designed to be a paperless lab archive with a scalable, integrated platform for cross-team collaboration. The Kalabie ELN was acquired by Agilent from the Klee Group in June 2007.

CambridgeSoft provides a series of enterprise ELN solutions. These include the Chemistry E-Notebook, Biology E-Notebook, Process E-Notebook and LIMS E-Notebook. These packages are bundled with additional CambridgeSoft products, such as ChemDraw, ChemFinder and ChemIndex.

Labtronics exhibited their Nexxis ELN, which is a Web-based, paperless electronic laboratory notebook solution that automates routine analysis, captures data from lab instruments and ensures adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs).

VelQuest highlighted their award winning SmartLab GMP Electronic Notebook System. This replaces QC process paperwork with electronic data capture that can be checked as it is acquired and shared across the enterprise. All instruments are integrated, and the system works with existing LIMS and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

In addition to CDS, LIMS and ELNs, there are a variety of other laboratory informatics applications. A number of these new applications are discussed in this section.

Complimenting their CDS and LIMS applications, Agilent Technologies also exhibited their electronic content manager (ECM) called OpenLAB, frequently referred to as Agilent OL ECM. This software provides control of chromatography systems, access to legacy system data, and ensures the integrity of stored data and reports.

Bio-Rad Laboratories, Informatics Division, exhibited their award-winning KnowItAll software for spectral data management, searching, processing and analysis.

CambridgeSoft exhibited their Chem & Bio Office products, including Chem & Bio Draw and various chemical and biological informatics (Inventory, BioAssay, Registration and Workflow LIMS), and scientific database (ChemBioFinder Gateway, The Merck Index, ChemACX) solutions.

Clarmon exhibited solutions that manage and control unstructured documentation for regulated industries. Their premier product, QAvalid, allows you to manage regulatory compliance and other complex business processes better by linking documents to regulations, making quality assurance and regulatory compliance quicker and easier.

STARLIMS announced their new SDMS module. It is unique in that it integrates LIMS data and SDMS documents into a single Web-based platform.

Waters exhibited their NuGenesis SDMS. This tool allows the tracking of all data through the laboratory, from initial data collection to final reporting.

The philosophy appears to be, never have one acronym when two will do! Whether working with a LIMS in an environmental, pharmaceutical, or manufacturing lab or with a LIS in a clinical laboratory, these are the systems most commonly used to capture and store the analytical results generated in the laboratory.

Accelerated Technology Laboratories is a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner and is ISO 9001 certified. Their Sample Master and Result Point product lines provide a total laboratory automation and data management solution by utilizing both Windows and Web 2.0 technology.

Accessible Information Solutions (AIS) presented BTLIMS. BTLIMS is a Windows network-based LIMS that enables laboratories to manage complex processes and to comply with national and international quality management system requirements. BTLIMS consolidates diverse business processes into a single, compliant platform with a comprehensive data management system.

Applied Biosystems exhibited SQL*LIMS 5 for R&D and QA/QC manufacturing operations. Featured plug-ins include Modular add-ons like SQL*QA Software, SQL*Stability Software, SQL*Schedule Software, SL Solution Software, and IDM LIMSLink software.

Autoscribe/Zumatrix exhibited their Matrix Gemini LIMS, a product incorporating Microsoft .NET technology that provides the same screens for both rich clients and thin Web browser clients with zero footprint. Also exhibited were Matrix Stability Express for managing pharmaceutical and food shelf-life and Matrix Sample Tracker to track samples and tasks in your lab where a full LIMS is not required.

Baytek International exhibited their BLISS LIMS, specially designed for refining, petrochemical, chemical and bulk pharmaceutical laboratories. They also introduced TurboTube, a sample vial distribution system for the entire laboratory.

While not promoted as heavily as their new ELNs, CambridgeSoft also was exhibiting their Workflow LIMS. This tool eliminates the need for custom programming by providing a visual experiment design and workflow layout with built-in laboratory automation and analytics.

ChemWare exhibited HORIZON 10, a 100-percent Web-enabled LIMS that combines a technology-neutral scientific data management system with a fully-integrated business intelligence platform, providing a unified automation solution for environmental, clinical, public health, forensics, energy/power, food and other laboratories drowning in regulations, QC requirements and paper.

H&A Scientific exhibited their SLIM, Stability Laboratory Information Manager, designed for the complete management of drug stability management programs, as well as IntelliLIMS, a LIMS for sample tracking.

iCD Vertriebs exhibited their LIMS LABS/Q solutions for synthesis and recipe optimization, SAP middleware, method validation, cost control and dissolution tests. These add-on modules included LABS Stabi, LABS PM and LABS UWS.

LabTech exhibited their Kuiper-LIMS software management system for collecting, analyzing and controlling laboratory data. It is available in a standard and customized version.

LabVantage Solutions exhibited their Sapphire LIMS, a zero-footprint laboratory information management suite designed to manage an organization's laboratory information across its R&D pipeline and manufacturing supply chain to optimize productivity and effectively share knowledge.

LabWare exhibited LabWare WebLIMS 3, a functionally rich LIMS application that provides the strategic advantage of immediate global deployment by leveraging a zero-footprint Web browser based client. It is built upon enterprise J2EE and JAVA technologies assuring platform compatibility with the widest possible array of hardware and IT architectures. They also unveiled version 6 of their LabWare LIMS software suite.

Moda Technology Partners leverage mobile computing technology to eliminate the inefficiencies, error rates and compliance risks inherent with paper-based data collection systems. Their MODA-EM is an integrated software and hardware solution that improves performance of environmental monitoring (EM) and quality control microbiology operations.

Novatek International exhibited Nova-LIMS, which provides process-driven LIMS software solutions that target the pharmaceutical, biotech and other health-care industries.

While emphasizing their EcoAnalytix initiative, in the informatics area PerkinElmer primarily exhibited their LABWORKS LIMS, but also hosts a variety of LIMS for screening labs. These include LifeCycle Combi (outside USA only) and LifeCycle for Neonatal Screening.

Promium exhibited their Element DataSystem LIMS. It was designed by environmental laboratory professionals specifically for environmental laboratories. Promium is singularly focused on providing efficient, effective and comprehensive information management solutions to commercial and publicly-owned environmental testing laboratories.

Quality Systems International (QSI) provides a full range of laboratory software solutions. Their WinLIMS.NET is the industry's most feature-rich LIMS, ready-to-use right out-of-the-box.

In addition to their PAT and process analysis systems, Siemens Energy & Automation exhibited their SIMATIC IT Unilab LIMS. This is a component of their SIMATIC IT manufacturing execution system (MES).

STaCS DNA avoided the issue of whether they designed a LIMS or LIS by calling their system a Sample Tracking and Control System or STaCS. It provides a complete sample tracking solution for the genomics and life science laboratories through all scientific processes, users, instruments and laboratories.

While exhibiting the latest version of their STARLIMS software, STARLIMS placed major emphasis on their new STARLIMS SDMS. Unlike most other SDMS, this one incorporates the full functionality of their LIMS package.

Thermo Scientific introduced Darwin LIMS 3.0 and, among their other laboratory informatics products, exhibited several of their other LIMS. Heavy emphasis was given to their updated Watson LIMS, but their Nautilus LIMS and SampleManager LIMS were covered as well.

Imaging and graphing
For laboratory informatics, two important aspects of image processing are actually imaging your data, that is collecting a picture of the item of interest and processing it to extract the critical information, and generating an image representation of your data to ease interpretation. Products to aid both sides of this coin are discussed below.

Along with their other award-winning software, Bio-Rad Laboratories, Informatics Division, exhibited their ChemWindow software for structure drawing.

Enhancing the usefulness of their extensive line of microscopes, Carl Zeiss MicroImaging also was exhibiting their software applications for acquiring and processing images. Primary emphasis was on their AxioVision Software. This application supports multiple specialty modules, such as MosaiX for scanning large surfaces, Time Lapse for acquiring a series of images over time, Inside4D for visu alization in 3-D, and AxioVision FRET for measurement of molecular interaction.

Manufacturing advanced imaging devices, such as the FALCON II Wide-Field Raman Chemical Imaging System, ChemImage also provides the necessary software to process this information. This software is known as the CI Xpert modular software platform. It allows you to selectively detect, analyze and identify chemical and biological samples, then visualize the data on any dimension-of-interest using both traditional image-processing techniques and sophisticated chemometric spectral analysis techniques.

GC Image released version 1.9 of its data processing, analysis and visualization software for GCxGC and announced plans to release a version of the software for LCxLC at HPLC 2008 in May.

Intevac manufacturers a variety of near-infrared through UV imaging devices. Operation of these is supported through their VSpec Pro software.

ProgRes digital microscope cameras made by JENOPTIK Laser, Optik, Systeme GmbH are delivered with a sophisticated capture software for Windows and Mac. The image capture software ProgRes CapturePro supports features like rotated live image, a continuously adjusted exposure time, time-lapse imaging, or the measurement of features (which can then be exported to a variety of other programs, such as MS Excel). EasyLab Software also is provided for storage and retrieval of images.

Motic Instruments produces a line of microscopes for the university, clinical-lab, hospital and industrial markets. These instruments are supported by their Images Plus 2.0ML software, which allows you to quantify your image through accurate measurements, editing, counting and many more features.

OriginLab was promoting their updated OriginPro 8 software package designed for data analysis and graphing. It includes extended analysis tools for statistics, 3-D fitting, image processing, and signal processing.

Solid Concepts is one of the most technically advanced suppliers of rapid prototyping and manufacturing services in the world. Capabilities in high definition stereolithography (HDSL), QuantumCast, stereolithography (SL), selective laser sintering (LS), cast urethane and computer numerical control (CNC) rapid prototypes allow for low-volume production of plastic, urethane, and metal components directly from design data. In effect, they allow you to 'print' a three-dimensional object.

Systat Software provides a variety of software products for imaging data. These include SigmaPlot, TableCurve2D and SigmaScan. UVP has developed BioImaging Systems ranging from the entry-level BioDoc-It gel documentation system to the advanced BioSpectrum Multispectral Imaging Systems for chemiluminescent, fluorescent, colorimetrica and in vivo/in vitro imaging. Their VisionWorks analysis software provides comprehensive package for image acquisition, advanced analysis, documentation and reporting of gels, plates, membranes, blots and more.

In addition to their other laboratory informatics products, Waters featured their Scientific Data Management System (SDMS) Vision Publisher, as well as applications supporting their Raman microscopy products.

Wealtec Bioscience produces a line of gel documentation and imaging systems, as well as 1-D image analysis software. Besides general image enhancements, such as background subtraction and image filtering, all being easily traceable, Dolphin-1D software has four major analysis functions; 1-D gel molecular weight/mass determination, microtiter plate analysis, spot density calculation and colony counting.

In addition to promoting their Loop Modulator hardware for GCxGC, Zoex was promoting their GC Image Software for analyzing GCxGC data acquired from various GC.

Whether you consider consultants a bane or a boon, they can be an excellent source for the expertise that you may be missing in-house. They can also provide specialized short term manpower requirements. Several of the groups active in this area, along with their fields of expertise, are described below.

Astrix Technology Group evaluates and implements improved data collection and processing strategies for scientific organizations. Their Informatics Division has extensive experience with commercial products and provides numerous services during their evaluation, selection and implementation.

Brock Solutions is one of North America's largest system integrators, having completed more than 4000 automation and information management projects over 15 years. Brock specializes in risk-management-based implementations of LIMS applications for multiple industries, and is a certified Siemens Global Solution Partner.

CSols professional services include automation planning, system/vendor selection, project management, implementation, configuration, customization, migration, enhancement and validation for laboratory informatics systems as well as integration of instruments and enterprise systems.

IQC-International Quality Consulting's portfolio of services include the definition and execution of IT–validation policies for LIMS and lab-automation systems and robots, validation/qualification of computerized systems and lab equipment, execution of 21 CFR Part 11 compliance projects, regulatory compliance status analysis and inspection preparation/inspection assessment.

Laboratory Automation Solutions assists laboratories of all types with technology acquisition and implementation through laboratory process definition and improvement, LIMS requirements definition and analysis, RFP development, selection assistance, implementation project management and training and certification.

The McCrone Group, through McCrone Associates, is a consulting laboratory for microscopy, ultra-microanalysis and materials analysis, including polarized light microscopy (PLM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), Raman and fourier transform infrared (FTIR).

Among their other services, Molnar-Institut provides robust HPLC solutions for pharmaceutical and chemical companies, for food and biotech production and for academic and research organizations. They also offer extensive experience in HPLC method development.

Patni Life Sciences provides established expertise in LIMS and lab informatics, compliance, pharmacovigilance, medical device safety, ERP, MES, and quality and electronic document management systems (EDMS) from conception and design through validation and support.

In addition to being a hardware/software manufacturer, PDR-Chiral is a contract services provider for HPLC/SFC. Contract services include HPLC/SFC method development and prep purifications for chiral and achiral.

Spectroscopic Solutions provides consulting and training services in PAT. They have extensive experience in spectroscopic methods (e.g. NIR, Raman, chemical imaging), chemometrics, statistics, method validation, and equipment qualification for GMP operations.

TTP LabTech provides expertise in developing custom automation solutions for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, including automated chemistry systems, process automation and innovative instrumentation.

Unless you have extensive internal resources, there will likely be a time when you require additional training for your personnel. Alternately, you may have to find a way to certify, either for internal or external forces, that your personnel have been appropriately trained. The following vendors are among those that can perform such a service.

Academy Savant is a provider of interactive e-learning and computer-based training and educational programs for the lab: chromatography (HPLC, LC-MS; GC, GC-MS; CE), spectroscopy (MS, atomic-absorption (AA), inductively coupled plasma (ICP), UV, infrared (IR), spectral interpretation), and safety training (more than 100 titles, including lab safety, material safety data sheets (MSDS), chem/bio-hazards, radiation).

ACLASS Accreditation Services, an American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-American Society for Quality (ASQ) company, accredits laboratories to International Organization for Standardization (ISO)/International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 17025, reference material producers (to Guide 34) and inspection bodies (to ISO/IEC 17020). ACLASS is recognized by the global accreditation authority, International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) as well as industry and government. ACLASS is the ISO accreditation arm for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as well as American Society for Quality (ASQ).

Illinois Institute of Technology issues online Masters' degrees in analytical chemistry, materials and chemical synthesis, biology, and health physics through part-time programs designed to meet the needs of the working professional. Instead of a thesis, the curricula include courses in communication, leadership, statistics, intellectual property and project management.

The McCrone Group, through their College of Microscopy, provides training in PLM, SEM, TEM, FTIR, sample preparation and digital imaging. National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering is committed to integrating the engineering and physical sciences with the life sciences to advance basic research and medical care. The NIBIB supports basic research and research training through investigator-initiated grants, contracts, program project and center grants, and career development and training awards.

In addition to being a hardware/software manufacturer, PDR-Chiral provides chromatographic lab planning and training.

Spectroscopic Solutions provides consulting and training services in PAT. They have extensive experience in spectroscopic methods (e.g. NIR, Raman, chemical imaging), chemometrics, statistics, method validation and equipment qualification for GMP operations.

Informatics support
There were also a number of entries that it would be inappropriate to skip, but which didn't clearly fit into any of our other classifications. These entries are listed below.

The world's largest scientific society with over 160,000 members, the American Chemical Society (ACS) publishes a number of journals featuring articles addressing laboratory informatics. Of co urse, even the articles that don't directly address laboratory informatics eventually have an impact on laboratory informatics when it becomes time to perform that testing and store the data.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world. ASTM's 12,000 standards, developed by the work of over 140 technical committees, are crucial to the information infrastructure that guides design, manufacturing and trade worldwide and include ones explicitly addressing LIMS and good automated laboratory practices, such as ASTM E1578-06 Standard Guide for Laboratory Information Management Systems.

CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service), a division of the American Chemical Society, creates and delivers the most complete and effective digital information environment for scientific research and discovery. CAS provides pathways to published research in the world's journal and patent literature back to the beginning of the 20th century.

Short courses
While many think of Pittcon in terms of the exhibition floor and all of the new instruments and software on display there, that is only part of the story. In addition to the presentations delivered at Pittcon, additional education opportunities are available through the wide range of short courses held during Pittcon, most by recognized experts in their fields. These provide an excellent way to rapidly get up to speed with a new technology. The following is an extract of just a few of the informatics related short courses held this year, to give you an idea of the range of topics covered.

  • Basic Statistics, James De Muth, University of Wisconsin
  • Chemical Imaging Applications, Giuseppe Bonifazi, Sapienza – Università di Roma
  • Designing and Implementing the Paperless Laboratory — Generating Business Benefits and Meeting Regulatory Requirements, Bob McDowall, McDowall Consulting
  • Electronic Lab Notebook Systems for Scientific R&D and Manufacturing, Rich Lysakowski, CENSA
  • Emerging IT for the Laboratory, Burkhard Schaefer, BSSN
  • Fundamentals of Lab Automation, Caroline Bright, National Instruments
  • Integrated Analytical Instrument Qualification (AIQ) and Computerized System Validation, Christopher Burgess, Burgess Consultancy
  • Introduction to Multivariate Chemometrics, Jose Andrade, University of A Corunna
  • LIMS and Laboratory Systems Integration: How to Select, Plan and Implement the Right Software Solutions for your Laboratory, Kyle McDuffie, CSols
  • LIMS for Laboratory Managers, Bob McDowall, McDowall Consulting
  • PDA Based Instrument Control and Wireless Connectivity, Caroline Bright, National Instruments
  • Statistical Process Control for Quality Assurance, Richard Kramer, Applied Chemometrics
  • XML, Metadata and Markup Languages for Analytical Chemistry, Stuart Chalk, University of North Florida

Whither Pittcon
While it was great to have Pittcon back in New Orleans, I hope you haven't tossed all of your arctic gear. Just to help keep you from getting soft, Pittcon 2009 will be returning to McCormick Place in Chicago, though at least it will be running from March 8 to 13, instead of in last year's February timeframe. (We'll have to wait to see if this helps!) For those who like to plan ahead, Pittcon 2010 will be held in Orlando, FL, February 28 to March 5, 2010, while Pittcon 2011 will be held in Atlanta, GA, March 13 to 18, 2011.


Raman Microscopy: The Next Generation
While they didn't make a big impact in the Editor Awards, it's interesting to note the number of vendors exhibiting new Raman microscopy systems, which
included big names like Thermo and relative newcomers like DeltaNu. While the ability to perform precision Raman analysis of microscopic samples would be impressive all on its own, the big news here is the capabilities of the control and analysis software that comes with them.

A good example of this is Thermo's DXR Raman Microscope with its OMNIC Professional Software Suite. OMNIC Atl?s software is designed to collect dispersive Raman spectra over a large sample area, providing automated high precision sample mapping. It includes machine vision components to allow the system to automatically identify and lock onto particles and to perform an analysis. It can perform a wide range of automatic calculations, such as the size distribution of chemically different particles composing the sample, as well as the percentage of the sample consisting of a given chemical composition.

While they have made significant progress on their goal of making this a fully automated analysis so that you don't need to be a Raman expert to use it, I'd still be leery of just turning it over to someone with no Raman background. My experience has been that Murphy is always out there, ready to throw you that odd-ball sample for which you never prepared. Still, even if you do have a good Raman expert on staff, tools like this should definitely make them more productive, allowing users with less expertise to handle the analysis of more 'routine' samples.

Data Interchange at Pittcon
The topic of data interchange at Pittcon 2008 revolved primarily around the analyticalinformation markup language (AnIML). AnIML is a standardization effort
of the E13.15 subcommittee of ASTM International to define a Technology Neutral Format (TNF) for the storage and exchange of laboratory information using the eXtensible Markup Language (XML).

The majority of AnIML presentations were associated with the workshop Tools for Applying the Analytical Information Markup Language (Session 1390), held on Tuesday afternoon. This included six presentations from people intimately involved in the creation of the AnIML standard, which are posted on the AnIML Project Web site. There was even a short course (#93) on XML, Metadata and Markup Languages for Analytical Chemistry put on by Stuart Chalk, Ph.D., of the University of North Florida on Monday.

With the current extended data retention times, the existence of a technology-neutral data storage and interchange format, such as AnIML, is critical. I would strongly recommend that any who have the time and expertise to assist with this volunteer project do so. This is your chance to influence the technology of the future, instead of just reacting to it!

Waters at 50
One of the more interesting off-site events of Pittcon 2008 was a dinner and reception to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Waters Corporation and to
honor their founder, James L. Waters. The featured speaker at this event was Jim Waters himself.

For those unfamiliar with this company’s interesting history, Jim Waters graduated from Columbia University in 1946 with a B.S. degree in Physics. With a family history of successful businessmen, he strove to imitate them. In 1958, using proceeds from the sale of a company he’d created to build infrared gas analyzers, he formed Waters Associates to manufacture made-to-order specialty instruments, initially renting space in the basement of the local police station. In 1968, Jim changed the company’s focus to chromatography, with its first liquid chromatograph going on sale in 1970. The company temporarily merged with Millipore Company in 1980, before being sold off again in 1994.

Since then, Waters has continued to push the development of liquid chromatography. Some of the more prominent of these advances include working on the refinement of mass spectrometers to be used as LC detectors and the development of 1.7 ?m particle high resolution columns. In 2003, it absorbed Creon Lab Control AG, followed by NuGenesis Technologies in 2004, complimenting its existing laboratory informatics suites.

Since 1982, Jim Waters has focused his energies on developing venture capital opportunities, an activity in which he is still dynamically engaged. Ever competitive, at 82 he shows no sign of wanting to sit back and take things easy. In fact, he seems to have taken on besting Dr. Arnold Beckman’s 104 years as a new challenge. I, for one, would not bet against him!

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