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50th Annual ASMS meeting is a roaring success.

The 50th Annual Conference on Mass Spectrometry and Allied Topics was held from June 2-6, 2002 at the Marriott World Center Hotel in Orlando, Florida. In addition to celebrating 50 years of progress in mass spectrometry, the meeting continued to attract a large number of attendees eager to learn more about how mass spectrometry could help them solve problems, and to seriously consider buying instruments.

This year's meeting attracted over 4,500 attendees, a 7% increase from 2001 (see IBO 5/31/01). For such a specialized conference this is quite remarkable, especially since the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) membership currently numbers around 3,500. While perhaps over 70% of members attended, lots of non mass spectroscopists were there too, especially biochemists interested in mass spectrometry and proteomics.

For newcomers, the meetings were especially worthwhile in that several oral sessions, as well as a number of posters chronicled the dramatic progress of the industry and ASMS's role this last 50 years. It was perhaps a surprise to many that the technique in vogue today, time-of-flight MS, was one of the first practical techniques developed over 50 years ago. Of course, recent developments in signal processing and software have made the technique infinitely more useful today.

This year's get together again featured life science presentations, particularly those focused on proteomics and LC/MS. The concentration is both a draw and a bane to the Society. As more and more attention is concentrated in this field, other areas are given short shrift, especially environmental analysis, and inorganic techniques in general. Some attendees have proffered that perhaps separate meetings should be held on other topics, but the draw for such a meeting would likely be disappointing. So proteomics rules and why not "go with the flow".

LC/MS in all its variations was the topic of discussion in many oral and poster sessions, as well as in group conversations. One indication of the interest in LC/MS was the sale of books on the topic. Russ Willoughby of The LC/MS Bookstore told IBO that sales of its latest book, A Global View of LC/MS, How to Solve Your Most Challenging Analytical Problems, 2nd edition, may have approached $20,000 at the meeting. This figure suggests that about 400 books were purchased by almost 10% of attendees. Clearly a large number of researchers and analysts are keen to learn more about this important analytical technique.

A cursory examination of the presentations, both oral and poster, reveals a growing importance in MS/MS, LC/MS, and TOF in general. Of course, there is obvious overlap in the categories, but we believe the trends are real, especially in the research environment that is heavily emphasized at ASMS. TOF configurations have become ubiquitous, especially in tandem with quadrupole and ion trap MS, as well as with itself (TOF/TOF). Ion trap mass spec is also becoming more widespread in both its application and the increasing number of suppliers now involved.

On the negative side, GC/MS shows a decreasing presence as environmental presentations have diminished. We were, however, surprised to see that CE-MS and SFCMS techniques have' not gained more acceptance. Perhaps we will see more interest next year.

As was mentioned before, many attendees came to the meeting to hear about proteomics, proteins and peptide analysis, as well as DNA analysis, and the applicable techniques, typically LC/MS or MALDITOF. Oral sessions were often overflowing, and the crowds around these posters were sometimes impenetrable. Although there was a lot of attention given to these topics, and related areas such as drug discovery, toxicology and metabolomics, attendance is not guaranteed, so the crowds indicated relevancy, especially regarding hoped-for problem-solving insights.

An analysis of presentation topics indicates an explosion of papers dealing with protein and metabolite analysis, while environmental areas and DNA analysis were somewhat less in evidence. The field of homeland security also received a good deal more attention this year for obvious reasons. The sessions were well attended, and the number of papers on explosives and biological agent detection, particularly anthracis detection, was triple that of previous years. Perhaps because of this increased attention, forensics papers were fewer in number.


As noted in previous years, the ASMS conference is really a symposia rather than an exhibition. Nevertheless, there were many products on display in the small exhibition booths surrounding the poster area, as well as in the various hospitality suites. Actually, there were far more instruments on display in the hospitality suites than at the formal exhibit. Unfortunately, because of the crowds in the suites, it was difficult if not impossible, to actually discuss the relative merits of the products being shown. Hopefully, the society will consider the establishment of a genuine exhibition in coming years to enable interested attendees to interact with suppliers in a more commercial manner.

For the first time, a few MS manufacturers held formal press conferences. Actually, the press conferences seemed to be more oriented to security analysts than media, as relatively few members of the press were present. Companies holding press conferences included Agilent Technologies, Waters/Micromass, Bruker Daltonics and Applied Biosystems. Bruker hosted an analyst tour of its suite at ASMS to familiarize them with Bruker's growing range of MS products. ABI conducted a webcast meeting for the investment community and media focused on its instruments designed for proteomics and small molecule analysis. The meeting also featured the announcement of its new "Q-Trap" LC/MS/MS system for drug discovery and metabolite analysis, its first ion trap related offering.

Waters and Micromass held a joint press briefing, a first for ASMS. Actually, it was the first time the two organizations have offered an integrated presentation, which Waters President John Nelson said would be the norm from now on. Waters announced the first products to emerge from its corporate Life Science R&D organization, including the LC/MALDI prep System, the result of a collaboration between Lab Connections, a subsidiary of MODCON, and Waters, and the RapiGest SF, a patented reagent for accelerating protein digestion.

Despite the relatively muted presence of GC/MS in the presentations, two new GC/MS products were introduced at the conference. Waters introduced its Quattro micro GC, optimized for high-throughput trace analyses of low level target compounds for a variety of applications. The system features a triple quad MS and new GC detector, as well as updated capabilities for Waters' MassLynx and e-MS information technology.

Thermo Finnigan unveiled its TRACE DSQ at ASMS. According to the company, the TRACE DSQ has the fastest scanning capability, 10,000amu/sec, for any single quad system. Designed to increase productivity, the system is targeted at toxicology, environmental analysis, and QA/QC laboratories.

Agilent Technologies announced two innovative new MS-related products: the Nanoflow Proteomics Solution, a highly integrated LC/MS/MS system optimized for proteomics applications; and the atmospheric pressure matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (AP-MALDI) source for use on the Agilent Series LC/MSD Trap SL ion trap mass spectrometer. Agilent also previewed a planned introduction of an ESI-TOF. These products were all attractively priced, featured ease of use, while providing labs just getting into proteomics with great flexibility.


As the gathering gains more widespread exposure in coming years, it is expected that more media events will be planned. Given the continuing stream of innovative product introductions, and increasing applicability of MS to almost every sort of analytical challenge, a larger, more publicized conference is virtually guaranteed. In 2003, the ASMS conference will be held in Montreal, Canada, from June 8 to 13.
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Title Annotation:American Society for Mass Spectrometry
Publication:Instrument Business Outlook
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 15, 2002
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