ASMS 2015: Mass specs, plugs and rock ‘n’ roll

Vicki Elliff and her giant colleague, Brad, at ASMS 2015 “Progenesis QI – for small AND large molecules”

Just over 3 weeks ago now, I set off on the first of 3 flights to travel from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK, all the way to St. Louis, MO, for ASMS 2015. This was my first overseas trip for Nonlinear, so I was both nervous and excited for the week ahead. We arrived on the Friday evening (which felt more like Saturday morning due to the time difference!) so it was more or less straight to bed ready for our bright and early start at the Waters Users’ Meeting the following morning.

The users’ meeting kicked off with breakfast and a chance to mingle before an exciting introductory talk about what’s new from Waters – this included the unveiling of their new mass spec, the Vion IMS QTof, a preview of REIMS research system with the iKnife, and also the launch of v2.1 of Progenesis QI (more on this below). This preceded the 2 key note presentations, both of which discussed applications of the iKnife. The first talk was by Professor Zoltan Takats from Imperial College London, the pioneer behind the iKnife – he gave us a very emotive overview of how it could help to prevent surgical removal of healthy tissue, with the example of full mastectomies in the case of breast cancer, as well as reducing time spent on the operating table waiting for histology results. With an estimated 1 in 3 people developing cancer at some point in their lifetime, this was a poignant talk showing a real life benefit of a new technology.

Next up was Chris Elliott from Queen’s University Belfast – his talk was on the very different, but nevertheless important, topic of food fraud. Food fraud is something that has received a lot of media attention over the last few years, from the melamine milk scandal in China, to the horse meat adulteration in Europe so it was great to see that the science industry is coming up with new and innovative ways to tackle these issues, and perhaps more importantly, that the wider world is beginning to see the importance of more stringent testing and regulations. Chris gave a very enlightening talk about how big the problem really is, and how it’s not just limited to these headline grabbing stories; one such example is about how twice as much organic food is sold as is manufactured. Some serious “food for thought” just as we finished for lunch.

After lunch, we split into groups of different areas of interest, although there did seem to be a theme that was consistent across them all: the use of Progenesis QI for the data analysis. There was a certain sense of pride at seeing how well represented we were, and also at how far we’ve come since our acquisition by Waters. This was a good taster of what was to come for the week ahead.

Sunday was a chance for us to explore a bit of what St. Louis had to offer, specifically the zoo which is located inside the enormous Forest Park. Personal highlights included the sea lion exhibit where you walked through a glass  tunnel with them swimming over you, and also the sight of a sleeping chimp right up against the glass.

Sea lion at the St Louis ZooA pensive chimp at the St Louis ZooSeal at the St Louis Zoo

On the Monday morning, the hospitality suites opened, which was where my Nonlinear colleagues and I were based for the duration of the conference, delivering software demos and also answering whatever questions were thrown at us from both new and experienced users. In addition to demos and answering questions, we received loads of great suggestions of what we could do next, and also heard about novel applications for which people are already using Progenesis.

As mentioned earlier, ASMS was our first opportunity to demo the soon to be released v2.1 of Progenesis QI. If you weren’t lucky enough to hear about it then, here’s your chance to see what’s coming:

  • Integration with the NIST MSMS libraries
  • Improvements to ChemSpider functionality with the option to filter your search results based on fragmentation data and elemental composition
  • Integration with the IPA pathways tool from QIAGEN

Dr Ian Morns demonstrating Progenesis QI at ASMS 2015We were more or less fully booked for appointments during the daytime sessions, even having to take an extra PC station to keep up with demand, and with Progenesis featuring on a high number of posters this year, word was getting around about us which meant all hands were on deck for the evenings when the suite was open to all. The evening sessions were slightly more relaxed – even if they were no less busy – with 80’s rock blaring in the background, and flashing neon guitar necklaces hanging off everyone’s necks to fit with Waters’ “Science is my rock ‘n’ roll” theme. The atmosphere was buzzing, drinks were flowing, and we were glowing with pride at how complimentary everyone was about the software – a particular favourite seemed to be the new Progenesis SDF Studio; after all, we all love a freebie!

Our breakfast seminar was on Wednesday morning, with talks on metabolomics and proteomics by Geert Goeminne, Ghent University, VIB Department of Plant Systems Biology and Richard Sprenger, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Southern Denmark, respectively. I’m pleased to say we had a great turnout, with standing room only. The seminar was recorded, so keep an eye on our Twitter for details.

The Progenesis QI breakfast seminar at ASMS 2015Dr Richard Sprenger presenting at the Progenesis QI breakfast seminar, ASMS 2015

After a hectic, but enjoyable, few days, we started our journey home with freshly inflated egos – it’s a good feeling knowing that we’re on the winning team.