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FT-MS Vendors Look into New Possibilities.

Commercially introduced in the late 1970s, Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR or FT-MS) is an extremely accurate, but costly technique. Until recently, FT-MS end-users were predominantly from academia. But the technique's impressive capabilities have led FT-MS vendors to look for markets elsewhere.

Reaching approximately $23 million in 1998, the market for FT-MS is currently fairly small, particularly with regard to number of units sold, considering that a single FT-MS can sell for as much as $1.5 million.

An FT-MS instrument operates by analyzing the cyclic motion or frequencies of ions in a uniform magnetic field, which in turn produces a mass spectrum. The instrument is capable of producing a higher mass resolution and a more accurate mass determination than any other type of mass spectrometer. And FT-MS is particularly adept at handling heavier molecules. With all this capability, the FT-MS is a valuable commodity for laboratories that can make use of its superior performance, when they can afford it.

In 1998, academic end-users accounted for 67% of the FT-MS market. The second largest market for FT-MS last year was the Pharmaceuticals and Biotech industries, with a combined 9% share of the market. Chemicals and plastics are also important markets for FT-MS, at 7%.

Not surprisingly, the pharmaceuticals market was mentioned as the most promising growth market for FT-MS by those manufacturers interviewed for this article. The potential for FT-MS in this field was mentioned at the recent ASMS meeting as well (see article on facing page): large pharmaceutical companies with big budgets are beginning to realize the value of FT-MS in drug discovery.

Bruker is the clear leader in the FT-MS market, accounting for approximately 45% of the worldwide market (as seen in the chart on this page). The FT-MS division of Finnigan at ThermoQuest is Bruker's biggest competitor, with 18% of the overall market. But the third largest competitor, IonSpec, has moved up on Finnigan recently.

Generally, FT-MS systems sell for a high price to end-users in need of high-performing instruments. Bruker's APEX II can sell for as much as $1.5 million. But in order to get ahead in a market with low unit volume, some instrument companies are taking a different approach. Ionspec's lower end FT-MS sells for as little as $300,000. And Jencourt, a new market entrant, isn't even really competing directly against other FT-MS, having introduced its system last October in the range of $100,000 to $125,000.

Each of these FT-MS manufacturers has made an effort to differentiate themselves in some unique way from their competitors. When asked what makes the APEX II different from its competition, Gary Krupa, vice president of FT-MS at Bruker Daltonics, told IBO that while some of the system's specifications might be similar to other FT-MS, in terms of the whole package, which includes automation and specialized software for proteomics, the Bruker system is really far ahead of the competition.

While Bruker has obviously seen success within the academic market, Mr. Krupa mentioned that the APEX II was experiencing growth recently in both the pharmaceuticals and polymers and additives sectors. With Bruker's approach toward the "whole package" of instrument, automation, and software, Mr. Krupa feels optimistic about the system's chances in the proteomics realm, where its present competition is mostly Q-TOF and sector MS rather than other FT-MS vendors.

Regarding Finnigan's New Star system, the company shut its stateside FT-MS operations down when Thermo went through significant restructuring and has since transferred them to Bremen, Germany. While the New Star 2000 is "at the end of its life," according to Dr. Reinhold Pesch, marketing manager for Finnigan MAT, the company plans to continue to be very active in the FT-MS field.

IonSpec's HiResMALDI FT-MS sells for $300,000, and its Ultima sells for $470,000. Clearly these lower prices have provided IonSpec with at least one distinct advantage in an FT-MS marketplace heavily populated by Bruker's higher-priced systems. Like Bruker, IonSpec reports that while academia is its main market for FT-MS, pharmaceuticals is becoming increasingly important. Julie Salorio, operations manager for IonSpec, said that the company's FT-MS products have been in the pharmaceuticals arena for about three years now.

There has been a movement, mostly because of the growing analytical requirements in the waste disposal market, to search out superior techniques to process GC, such as FTIR, according to Duane P. Littlejohn, president and CEO of Jencourt.

That's why Jencourt built its FT-MS product from scratch to meet the increasing demands of the analytical process market. And at a price unusually low for an FT-MS-$100,000 to $125,000-Jencourt's system has a unique opportunity to succeed. The instrument was introduced last October at an ISA meeting.

Mr. Littlejohn is cautiously optimistic about the process market, but acknowledges that many are still skeptical about MS's role there. The process market won't necessarily be a fast growth market for Jencourt initially, but Mr. Littlejohn expects MS to be the instrument of choice in the process market down the road. More near-term, the company has its sights set on a variety of areas, with particular focus on pharmaceuticals and environmental. Drugs-of-abuse testing is another potential area, where Jencourt's FT-MS can test positives about 100 times faster than the GC-MSs that are being used to do it now, says Mr. Littlejohn. Industrial hygiene and stack monitoring are also target markets for Jencourt.

There is little doubt that the pharmaceuticals market has stimulated some fresh demand within the FT-MS market. Of all the vendors, Bruker seems the most aggressively interested in the market, going so far as to target the proteomics sector with its automated systems. Jencourt is a wild card. Its distinctive approach to FT-MS opportunities could very well open up a whole new world of possibilities for the technique. It remains to be seen.
Column Graph: Worldwide Demand for FT-MS ($m)
1998 23.1
1999 25.3
2000 28.0
Pie Chart: FT-MS Vendor Market Share 1998
Bruker 45%
ThermoQuest 18%
IonSpec 15%
Other 22%

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Comment:FT-MS Vendors Look into New Possibilities.
Publication:Instrument Business Outlook
Geographic Code:00WOR
Date:Jul 15, 1999
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