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PNNL Wins R&D 100 Award for Instrument that Leads to Rapid Medical Tests

Wed, 07/10/2013 - 9:46am
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Award is PNNL's 90th in 50 years of R&D 100 contest

An instrument that quickly and more effectively analyzes complex biological and environmental samples has been named one of the past year's 100 most significant scientific and technological products or advances. The innovation can aid early diagnosis and customized treatment of disease, as well as other applications.An instrument that quickly and more effectively analyzes complex biological and environmental samples was today named one of the past year's 100 most significant scientific and technological products or advances.

The innovation was recognized by R&D Magazine in their annual R&D 100 Awards competition and was developed by researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

PNNL has now won 90 R&D 100 Awards — sometimes referred to as the "Oscars of Innovation" — since the contest began in 1963.

"My sincere congratulations to the winners of this year's R&D 100 Awards," said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. "The scientists and engineers who developed these award-winning technologies at the cutting edge facilities across our national labs are keeping Americans at the forefront of the innovation community and assuring our nation's economic competitiveness and national security."

Identification of small molecules that indicate disease, known as biomarkers, promises to significantly improve human heath through early diagnosis and customized treatment. However, improved research instruments for separation and identification of specific molecules in complex samples are needed to achieve this objective.

PNNL researchers have recently developed a new instrument that can process such complex samples rapidly and accurately, detecting rare yet important molecules for early diagnosis that cannot be adequately characterized using existing instruments.

The PNNL-developed instrument effectively merges two complementary analysis techniques — one known as multiplexed ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) and the other as ultrafast quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry — into the Combined Orthogonal Mobility & Mass Evaluation Technology, or CoMet.

The combination of the two distinct approaches enables CoMet to exhaustively characterize samples, some of which have many different components that vary greatly in abundance. This wide range of quantities commonly trips up less advanced separation methods. The exceptional speed of IMS permits CoMet to analyze large numbers of samples rapidly and inexpensively. This can be crucial in biomedical research, clinical practices, natural product management — where sample analysis is conducted by oil and mining industries — and in environmental studies.

CoMet has been used in collaborations with Oregon Health Sciences University and the University of Washington to investigate several diseases and with the University of Wisconsin-Madison for environmental studies. The technology was created at EMSL, DOE's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory located at PNNL, and integrated into several instruments that are available for use by the scientific community through EMSL's competitive peer review process. Developed using mass spectrometers from Agilent Technologies of Santa Clara, Calif., CoMet has been licensed by Agilent and commercially introduced at the National ASMS Meeting in June 2013.

PNNL staff involved in developing and commercializing the innovation will be honored at the annual R&D 100 Awards ceremony in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 7.

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