You’ve probably seen it online—the video clip of the slightly frumpy cell phone salesman who blew away the judges of “Britain’s Got Talent” last month by singing an aria from the Puccini opera “Turandot.” Within hours, footage of his performance had spread all over the Internet and gained him a worldwide fan base; he later won the show’s £100,000 prize, a recording contract, an appearance on “The Today Show,” and the opportunity to sing for Queen Elizabeth II. A June 20 Associated Press article reported the stunned Everyman as saying, “I’m an ordinary bloke who just loves singing.”
Perhaps it’s that unassuming attitude that explains his appeal. And perhaps it’s a similarly unpretentious approach that draws customers to Awareness Technology’s laboratory instruments. “Most of our products are not trendy,” says Mary Freeman, the company’s president and founder. “I mean, they are not the gourmet delights of the lab, but rather the warm bread and butter that are served with every meal, year after year. We supply the classics, the basics. We get the majority of our business by word-of-mouth advertising. We’re not very glitzy, just very solid.”
Among the many chemistry and immunochemistry instruments scheduled for launch in the coming months is Awareness’ ChemWell, an open system that combines automatic biochemistry and microwell EIA. Already available in other countries, it will enter the U.S. clinical lab market later this year. “We are actively looking for marketing partners now,” Freeman says.
She compares the ChemWell to “a machine tool for the laboratory,” adding, “It can be used for biochemistry, but it also has other capabilities, so it can be in use full time. For example, it can be making sample dilutions or performing EIAs. The feature list is extensive, yet our password-protected, Windows-based software has multiple user levels, so it can be both very easy to operate and also full of options for the advanced user.”
Many manufacturers are preparing launches for 2008. AACC Annual Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo attendees can preview some of those forthcoming systems this month. They include Olympus America’s AU680 chemistry-immuno analyzer, a replacement for the company’s existing AU640e instrument. “Specifically, it offers up to a 20 percent reduction of sample volume and reagent volume,” says senior product manager Frank Bartholf. “The onboard reagent capacity has been increased by 25 percent, offering up to 60 different onboard tests plus three electrolytes for a total of 63 test results per sample.” In addition, the company has enhanced the auto-repeat testing mode for faster turnaround and added a new operating system, a “more intuitive” graphic user interface, whole blood sampling, and three-part reagent dispensing, “giving the user a fully automated HbA1c.” The AU680 will operate as a stand-alone or open-design analyzer “with connectivity capability to virtually any lab automation track system,” Bartholf says.
Also available for preview at AACC will be Beckman Coulter’s UniCel DxC 880i Synchron Access clinical system, scheduled for launch in the first quarter of 2008. Its features include the UniCel CTA, which performs closed-tube aliquotting and closed-tube sampling (and which is in development and not yet available for in vitro diagnostic use). “The CTA is key to the superior performance of the DxC 880i,” says tactical marketing manager Daniel Siegenthaler, “because it serves as the single point of entry for samples, it accepts multiple tube types, and it performs automatic aliquots with a high throughput of up to 200 per hour, making it ideal for high-volume laboratories. From the CTA, primary samples are routed to the UniCel DxC 800, and aliquots are routed to the UniCel DxI 800.”
By the end of 2008, Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics aims to introduce not one but two Vitros Fusion series systems. Worldwide product director Robert Geen says the Vitros Fusion integrated system will “integrate all market-proven Vitros technologies for clinical chemistry and immunodiagnostics into a single system with a unique and innovative approach that will improve workflow,” while the Vitros Fusion immunodiagnostic system will address the productivity needs of medium and large laboratories by incorporating the existing Vitros technologies of MicroWell, MicroSensor, Intellicheck, and Enhanced Chemiluminescence. “Vitros technologies ensure high-quality patient results in diverse patient settings and verify system processing and result reporting while reducing error and ensuring result integrity,” Geen sums up.
Also in 2008, Roche plans to expand its Cobas 4000 analyzer series by adding the Cobas C 311 clinical chemistry analyzer, a stand-alone automated instrument that, group marketing manager Ed Gilligan says, “combines the proven reliability of Roche/Hitachi systems with the convenience of Cobas reagent packs for small workload laboratories or as a backup to the Cobas 6000 analyzer series.” The new analyzer will feature 42 onboard channels, three ISEs, and a menu that includes general chemistries, therapeutic drugs, drugs of abuse, and serum proteins. Another recently introduced facet of the Cobas series is the connection of the Cobas 6000 analyzers to the Modular Preanalytics lab automation system. “This allows mid-volume laboratories to fully automate the front-end sample-handling processes,” Gilligan says.
In the meantime, at CAP TODAY press time Roche was planning a July launch for the Modular Analytics EVO—what Gilligan calls “the next-generation system for higher-volume laboratories.” Its software will include an improved stat-handling process, improved rack-flow management, and additional report formats. “Current Modular Analytics systems will also be upgraded with this version,” Gilligan adds.
Fresh from its acquisition of Bayer HealthCare Diagnostics and Diagnostic Products Corp., Siemens is busily readying the Advia 1800/ SMS/ Immulite 2000/2500 consolidated chemistry/immunochemistry instrument for U.S. launch in the first quarter of 2008. Eric LaFleche, head of automation, chemistry, and data management, says the scalable analyzer is unique in that it combines “the strengths of a stand-alone integrated platform with the benefits of an automated solution.” It can perform more than 155 chemistry and immunochemistry tests on the same tube without operator intervention, he adds, and feature a single specimen-loading area. The instrument follows the introduction of the Advia 1800 chemistry system, which made its debut in November, and Advia chemistry operating software, which came on the market in December.
Also in December, Dade Behring brought the Dimension Vista intelligent lab system to market. Vista marketing director Bonita Kushnerick says the new system’s hallmark is “ultra-integration” in that it combines four technologies that allow the user to process up to 100 methods simultaneously. “For the very first time, integration of nephelometry is offered with clinical chemistry and immunochemistry on a single platform,” she says. “Both nephelometry and LOCI advanced chemiluminescence detection provide throughput comparable to dedicated stand-alone platforms. LOCI technology delivers integration of high-sensitivity immunoassays with 10-minute cardiac markers; 16-minute, third-generation thyroid-stimulating hormone; and small sample requirements.”
Across the Atlantic, United Kingdom-based Randox Laboratories has added the semiautomated RX Monza to its RX analyzer series. Staff scientific writer Aurora Sinclair calls it “ideal for performing manual tests in clinical laboratories and research laboratories.” The company, she notes, also markets the RX Daytona and RX Imola fully automated benchtop clinical chemistry analyzers. The RX Daytona can run 180 photometric tests per hour and 270 ISEs, while the RX Imola can run 400 photometric tests per hour and 240 ISEs. Randox supports the RX series with around-the-clock quality control software and RIQAS proficiency testing programs.
CAP TODAY’s survey of mid- and high-volume chemistry analyzers includes products from the abovementioned manufacturers and from Abbott Diagnostics and Clinical Data. Vendors supplied the information listed. Readers interested in a particular product should confirm it has the stated features and capabilities.
Anne Ford is a writer in Chicago.