PNNL wins award for analytical instrument

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has won its 90th R&D 100 award for an instrument that quickly and more effectively analyzes complex biological and environmental samples.

The contest, sometimes called the "Oscars of Innovation," is conducted by R&D Magazine to identify the past year's 100 most significant scientific and technological products or advances.

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.

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, according to the Department of Energy national lab in Richland.

The PNNL-developed instrument merges two types of spectrometry into the Combined Orthogonal Mobility and Mass Evaluation Technology, or CoMet.

The combination enables CoMet to exhaustively characterize samples, some of which have many different components that vary greatly in abundance. This range of quantities commonly trips up less advanced separation methods.

The exceptional speed of one of the types of spectrometry used permits CoMet to analyze large numbers of samples rapidly and inexpensively. This can be crucial in biomedical research and clinical practices and also can be used in environmental studies and for sample analysis for the oil and mining industries.

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.

CoMet has been licensed by Agilent Technologies of Santa Clara, Calif.