Comprehending COVID-19: How Consumables Can Increase LC-MS/MS Sensitivity

By January 19, 2021


During 2020, we collaborated with many of our customers to develop targeted liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry/mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) methods to detect SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) from biological samples. However, the combination of the biological specimen, the sample collection medium, the viral load threshold, and the need for a high throughput method gave rise to a multitude of challenges.

Improving LC-MS/MS sensitivity with chemistries and consumables

As the pandemic took hold, Waters quickly set up the COVID Innovation Response Team, and encouraged all employees to reach out to customers, expedite collaboration and do whatever needed to be done to help in the fight against COVID-19.

A personal highlight for me was listening to a presentation from one of our collaborators, who told the story about how Waters leaped into action, offering consultations, performing parallel testing in our own laboratory, and providing cutting-edge chemistries and consumables.  You can watch a version of the presentation here.

Following optimization of the mass spectrometric signals from peptides indicative of the presence of the major protein constituents of SARS-CoV-2, the use of QuanRecovery Vials and Premier Columns designed to mitigate the loss of sample analytes due to analyte-to-surface interactions were also embedded into the workflow. The result of this collaboration was a fast, quantitative, 5.5-minute method with optimized linear dynamic range and reduced non-specific binding. The increase in sensitivity of the method as a result of the careful selection of the consumables was a fantastic bonus.

Can you imagine that …

  • The sensitivity of your mass spectrometry method is improved by choosing the right vial for your monoclonal antibody therapeutic?
  • The tailing, hard-to-quantify peak is sharp as a tack thanks to the barrier between your small molecule drug and the column hardware?
  • The choice of mobile phase additive could allow you to see less abundant proteoforms in your intact protein analysis?

At Waters, we are frequently asked for advice about how to optimize hardware parameters and eke out every ounce of sensitivity from existing instrumentation. We are often asked to make recommendations about the most suitable column chemistry for a set of molecules, and for advice on the most appropriate vial or plate.

2020 was a year when we truly appreciated how the whole is greater than the sum of the parts – not only in terms of the value each piece of a workflow brings to the result, but also the value in the collective hive mind amongst colleagues and customers.

Hindsight 20/20, or Hindsight 2020?

Hindsight 20/20 – it is the ability to look back on a situation and have a clearer understanding of how things could have been done better. It will be years before we fully understand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

On the other hand, Hindsight 2020 – the ability to look back at the year just gone – gives us an opportunity to reflect on how scientists around the world came together to turn samples into results, and questions into answers. To ask ourselves how we can take the positive lessons learned and embed these into our daily lives.

Looking towards the new normality

If the distance 2020 imposed has taught us anything, it is when we work together, we are at our strongest.

Who would have thought that the virtual nature of 2020 would bring us closer together than ever before? No longer did we need to debate if we should jump on a plane or get in our car to communicate – we found ourselves connecting almost instantly, just a click away from one another.

It will be our aim to maintain this virtual collaborative spirit, even when it is possible to safely travel again once more. We want our new normal to be more inclusive and open than ever before – both within our own organization, and through the collaborations and partnerships we forge with our customers.

Learn more at our upcoming COVID-19 Spotlight Series Webinar

At Waters, our purpose has always been centered on enhancing human health and well-being. Today, this purpose is more important than ever.

Please join our free 30-minute COVID-19 Spotlight Series Webinar at 10 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021. In this webinar, Laurence Van Oudenhove will explore the improvement of LC-MS/MS sensitivity through careful consideration of chemistries and consumables. Register now and explore related resources.

Have an idea, question, or collaborative proposal? We want to hear from you! If you don’t yet know your local Waters contacts, connect with the COVID Innovation Response Team, contact us to propose a collaboration, or simply send me a message on LinkedIn.