What makes a good LC-MS/MS bioassay?

Liquid chromatography linked to tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS) is the ‘go to’ method for pharmacokinetics and metabolism studies across drug development with recent advances in separation, throughput and methods for analysing protein biotherapeutics.

But not all LC-MS/MS assays are created equal. There are many pitfalls that await even experienced scientists developing and validating, for example, a new bioassay. However, with experience and knowing what pitfalls to look out for, these issues don’t need to stand in the way of producing a robust bioassay and achieving analysis goals for your compound in good time.

Choosing the right method approach

When selecting your LC-MS/MS method approach it is worth doing your homework. Pick an assay format that is best suited to your compound and consider factors such as matrix type, analyte structure, choice and availability of reagents, and the sensitivity and specificity you need.

What about sample preparation? Will protein precipitation or solid phase extraction be enough or should you consider enrichment, for example using affinity capture steps? Use the simplest approach available to the required selectivity/specificity, sensitivity, accuracy, and precision in the intended matrix and species.

LGC blog What makes a good LC-MS_MS bioassay

Common pitfalls

Accuracy, precision, reliability, throughput and sensitivity all make for a good assay. But what are the common pitfalls you should be on top of when commissioning a new LC-MS/MS assay?

The increase in sensitivity of recent LC-MS/MS instruments and the use of wide calibration ranges can make carry over and contamination an issue, but these can be avoided if detected and addressed during validation.

The retention factor of the analyte needs to be optimised in order to allow for the analyte to have sufficient time to interact with the stationary phase on the column. This will allow for the best sensitivity to be achieved and for the analyte to elute from the column before any other matrix interferences in the sample.

LC-MS/MS has a well-deserved reputation for excellent selectivity but interference from the sample matrix (matrix effect) or metabolites can catch you out. Careful validation is key to optimising methods to eliminate or minimise these issues¹.
Best recommendation? Find a partner with expertise in a wide range of LC-MS/MS methodologies

LGC has extensive experience developing LC-MS/MS bioassays for many different compounds and applies an intelligent, streamlined process to new method development that highlights issues at an early stage and creates a solid basis for future troubleshooting. Read our poster ‘A step-by-step guide to developing a robust assay in bioanalysis using LC-MS/MS’ to learn about LGC’s proven approach to developing industry-leading LC-MS/MS bioassays.

 

References
1. Matuszewski BK, Constanzer ML, Chavez-Eng CM. Strategies for the assessment of matrix effect in quantitative bioanalytical methods based on HPLC− MS/MS. Analytical chemistry. 2003 Jul 1;75(13):3019-30.

Rediscovering the lost soldiers of Fromelles

The Battle of Fromelles took place on 19-20 July 1916, and is still known as “the worst 24 hours in Australian history,” as 5,533 Australian soldiers lost their lives in the battle. Most of the men were reinterred after the war, but in 2006, the remains of two hundred and fifty soldiers were discovered in unmarked graves near Fromelles.

In 2009, our specialist DNA team began to work with the Australian and British governments, as well as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to help identify these soldiers using the most current DNA methods. Using DNA extracted from remains, like teeth, we can compare samples from the remains to living relatives of World War I soldiers with a combination of mitochondrial and Y-chromosome DNA.

Earlier this week it was announced that nine more Australian soldiers who had fallen at Fromelles have been identified using advanced DNA analysis. This is a huge moment for the families of the men and all those involved in the work for the last nine years.

Vic Moore, one of our DNA experts, has worked on the project since the remains were excavated. She said, “This year we have been able to provide closure for nine different families, bringing the total number of soldiers identified at Fromelles to 159 from the 250 soldiers originally recovered.”

The battle, discovery and research is a fascinating story which also caught the attention of playwright and author Lynn Brittney, who wrote ‘Dig for the Diggers’ in 2010, just after the work had begun. The play recounts the story of the fictional Mick Feeney while two forensic scientists examine his bones.

“I got the idea for ‘Dig for the Diggers’ after reading a piece in the paper about the War Graves Commission finding more bodies and the DNA testing started on the Australian relatives. I thought it was so fascinating and then I read up about the Battle of Fromelles and was so appalled by the disaster that I felt I had to write something about it,” said Lynn. “I am deeply impressed that the scientists in your organisation were involved in the forensic work on the soldiers from the battle.”

After researching the battle and the present day research, Lynn was moved by the story of the brave men who were getting their names and identities back. She explained, “I chose to write about the ‘ghost’ of the first body to be disinterred and how he viewed what was happening to his remains. It told the story of Australia’s involvement through his eyes and how ‘the worst 24 hours in Australia’s history’ panned out.”

The play has been performed extensively in Australia and was even performed last week as part of this year’s One Act Play Festival as drama groups commemorate the First World War. Director Christine Mace, whose group The Athelstan Players performed the play last week, called it “very emotional and moving”.

Captain Kenneth Mortimer, one of the nine soldiers identified. Image via Australian War Memorial

It’s easy to imagine that the nine men who have been identified had much in common with the play’s fictional protagonist. One of the men, Alexander McCulloch was 35 years old at the time of his death, while Captain Kenneth Mortimer was only 20 years old.

The men will be honoured at a commemoration ceremony this July on the 102nd anniversary of the battle, and new headstones will replace the old anonymous ones, marking their identities for the first time in over a century.

“Even after 102 years, being able to provide a name to an unknown grave can have a massive impact to the families, as it allows them to finally know what happened to their loved ones, and know where their final resting place lies,” reflected Vic.

Work continues to identify the remaining 91 soldiers with the aim that one day, each of the recovered diggers will be laid to rest. Read more about the identities of the soldiers here.

Creating windows of opportunity

A company’s employees are its greatest asset. They are what push the company forward, driving its growth and development. So it only makes sense that organisations should also drive the growth of its workers. Enabling employees to be successful makes the company more successful.

This is more than just ensuring that the quality of work remains strong: it’s about letting people know that their futures are something employers are invested in.

Throughout March, our employees have been sharing their experiences and promoting opportunities within LGC that they have found helpful.

The apprentice

LGC apprentices met with Sir John Holman, President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, at the beginning of March, gave him a tour of their labs, and spoke with the BBC about what their apprenticeship means to them.

LGC apprentices Jennifer Meacock and Renato Junior met with Prof Sir John Holman. © Royal Society of Chemistry/Richard Stonehouse

“I love it. I know some people go into work and dread it but I never have that feeling, I’m always enjoying it when I’m here,” said Jenny Meacock. “They don’t treat you like you know less than anyone else; you’re instantly treated as an equal.”

National Apprenticeship Week (5-9 March) brought attention to the fact that while more options are becoming available, less than one percent of all apprenticeships are in science, meaning there’s a gap that science organisations need to address.  And this is something that Chief Scientific Officer & Government Chemist Derek Craston understands.

Government Chemist Derek Craston (centre) with Richard Holliday (left) and Danny Ho (right). © Royal Society of Chemistry/Richard Stonehouse

“It’s an important way into science – skills are really important for organisations like ours,” explained Derek. “We do complex things that need good technical knowledge and good practical knowledge. The conventional route of just going through school and going onto university, works for some people, but it doesn’t work for all.”

In a previous blog post, apprentice Krzysztof Pilec shared how the apprenticeship scheme has worked for him, saying, “Overall I don’t think it is possible to be any happier with the choice of signing up for this apprenticeship. It has been an enjoyable, fun and incredibly educational time for me at this company as an apprentice.”

Leadership

LGC employees at our Alexandria, Minnesota and Madison, Wisconsin sites teamed up for training and workshops on 14-16 March in Alexandria.  One of many sessions to be executed across LGC, the training aims to create a culture of trust and respect, where leaders learn to consciously to adapt to various communication styles and involve team members in decision making.

LGC employees attend a leadership training session in the US.

Employees found the training to be not only a great opportunity to work together, but also a positive step in their own professional development.

“The training provided immediate tools for prioritization, understanding and dealing with different personality types, and creating a respectful work culture,” said Julie Kramer, Director of Marketing at LGC’s newly-acquired Lucigen. “The only question now is, ‘What should I implement first’?”

The workshop was aimed at first-time managers and anyone who felt that they could be a leader, but Rob Brazas, Senior Product Manager at Lucigen, believes that this type of leadership training shouldn’t be limited to just managers.

“It focused on communication skills that are valuable whether you’re in management or not. All employees would benefit from this training,” explained Rob.

Whether you implement apprenticeships, encourage your team to develop their leadership skills, or help employees realize their potential in other ways, the goal should be to create an empowered culture where leaders have tools to communicate and have a sense of ownership in the company’s success.

The women of LGC

March was Women’s History Month, which also saw the celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March. Diversity and equal opportunity have become, rightfully, hot topics throughout various industries, but specifically in science and technology as well. Science organisations should really be at the forefront of the fight, because scientists of all people know that just because something is the way it is doesn’t mean that’s how it should be.

LGC’s own history is full of brave and brilliant women, trailblazing the way forward for others like them. On 18 July 1916, in the wake of World War I, the Government Laboratory hired its first female scientist, Miss E.M. Chatt¹. PW Hammond and Harold Egan, authors of Weighed in the Balance, state that this was “part of a general move to place women in the lower ranks of the civil service to replace men being drafted” in the war effort.

They also recounted how Miss Chatt was silently watched by her new all-male coworkers as she was first brought in to the laboratory. Described as a ‘bachelor of science’ by the poet Richard Church, she paved the way for all of the other female scientists who joined the Laboratory during this wave of incoming women. By the end of the war in 1920, more than half of the junior analytical staff were women.

 

Nearly one hundred years later, in 2011,  became the first female Deputy Government Chemist in 136 years. She told IFST, “There is now, global acknowledgment in the importance of having equality in the workplace, at all levels… I think there will be many more opportunities for female food scientists in the future.”

 

LGC’s senior scientist Marcela Soruco describes how this very same trailblazing spirit is what attracts her about science to begin with. “To me, science is the art of revealing the unknown. As scientists, we can either uncover something that was previously unknown or create something that did not exist before. Both of these discoveries have the potential to change the course of human history, which is incredibly powerful and rewarding.”

If you want to read more about the women of LGC, head on over to the Biosearch Technologies blog, where Marcela, senior scientist Dusty Vyas, and application scientist Erin Steer share which scientists inspire them, how they found their passion for science, and what science means to them.

¹Weighed in the Balance, by PW Hammond and Harold Egan, 1992, pg 179-180.

Helping athletes stay safe and clean with Informed Sport

The use of drugs in sport goes back a long time- all the way back to the invention of sport itself, when ancient Olympians would take herbal medicines, potions and drugs to enhance their performance. Chariot racers in Ancient Rome are believed to have fed their horses hydromel, while gladiators took stimulants to improve their abilities. But the Ancient Romans, advanced as they were, did not have mass spectrometres.

More recently, drug use in sport, or doping, has become one of the biggest problems facing sport. It’s now understood to not only oppose the spirit and integrity of sport, but also poses a danger to the athletes themselves.  And as science has moved forward, becoming more accurate and precise, we are well-placed to tackle this issue head on.

Sport is a multibillion pound industry, spanning nearly every continent and reaching billions of people, so it’s easy to forget sometimes about the individuals participating in it. A sport is only as great as the people who dedicate themselves to it and drive the sport. The industry’s top priority should be to protect these athletes and their health and integrity, which is why transparency and certification programmes like Informed Sport are so important.

 

The responsibility to stay clean rests with the athletes, who can be banned for several years, or even lifetime, from their sport if they test positive for a banned substance, whether they knowingly took it or not. Worse still, banned substances can pose serious risks to a person’s health, causing heart attacks, liver damage, and other problems.

But if people don’t know what’s in the supplements they use, how can they possibly have confidence in them or know which dangers to avoid? Surveys carried out on non-Informed Sport-certified supplements that were being sold in supermarkets suggest that as high as ten percent contained banned substances, which mean the products would not pass our certification.

The WADA banned substances list is not closed; items are added as and when new drugs are caught. So there is no way to absolutely guarantee that a product is free from these illegal ingredients, but there are definitely steps that will vastly minimise the risk posed to athletes. Ensuring that products are tested and certified is the first of these steps.

Simon Richardson of GCN visits LGC.

Global Cycling Network recently visited our labs to see first-hand how sports nutrition products are tested for banned substances.  Watch to learn for yourself how exactly our Informed Sport programme takes steps to protect athletes, giving them the option to see exactly when that protein bar they’re eyeing has been tested by experts.

We can all do our part. If we expect athletes to be informed about what exactly is going into their bodies, then supplements companies should strive to demonstrate that their products are safe.

The importance of iodine – are you drinking enough milk?

Ensuring the safety of the food we eat is of paramount importance. Iodine is an essential element naturally found in some foods. Insufficient amounts of iodine in the diet results in low levels of thyroid hormones, which are responsible for regulation of metabolism.

In pregnant women and infants iodine is of particular importance as it plays a critical role in brain development. The primary sources of iodine for most people are milk and dairy products but due to increases in dairy intolerance and changes in diet, milk-products are being increasingly substituted for non-milk alternatives.

To identify the impact that such dietary changes might have on iodine levels across the population, an understanding of the levels of iodine naturally present in milk is necessary. This includes the effects of seasonal variations or fat content and any processing effects of pasteurisation which might reduce the iodine content. These variations have been investigated by the Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health (NICHE), Ulster University, with milk samples collected over a 12-month period. However, these differences needed to be measured accurately in order to properly determine the influence different conditions have on iodine content.

As part of the UK’s National Measurement Laboratory (NML) role, scientists at LGC have developed a high accuracy quantitative method (inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry) for the analysis of iodine in milk and milk-products to support the regulation on iodine levels in infant formulas. Using this expertise, we were able to support the work being done at Ulster University, providing the analytical capability required to determine the levels of iodine in milk under a variety of conditions.

Of the collaboration, Maria O’Kane, lead author on the paper, said: “LGC facilitated my visit to the laboratory in Teddington and enabled me to undertake analysis of the milk samples collected using high accuracy ICP-MS. The expert staff at LGC supported my learning and enabled me to develop a greater knowledge and understanding of ICP-MS analysis.”

The findings were recently published in the Journal of Nutrition, where Maria concluded that consuming additional cow milk can significantly increase the amount of iodine observed in the urine of women of childbearing age.

This work will help our understanding of current iodine intake and support future research in this area and clearly demonstrates the impact the UK’s National Measurement Laboratory (NML) can have on real-world problems, protecting human health and ensuring the safety of our food.

Our top 5 favourite scientific breakthroughs in history

British Science Week kicked off on the 9th March and this year’s theme is ‘Exploration & Discovery’, which encompasses the spirit of scientific enquiry. The week is a ten day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths.

As humans, we love to celebrate big moments in history and retell stories that help us understand our own story. Famous thinkers often become legends who attain ‘larger than life’ status. But it’s important to remember that our heroes of science pursued science every day and dedicated themselves to their work. Innovations are often accomplished over the course of lifetimes with the help of many scientists.

We are constantly building on the knowledge of the past to take science into the future, and it’s exciting to think that we could each play a part in something big. After all, there are often just a few steps between ‘business as usual’ and ‘making history’. So keep up the good work!

To celebrate the spirit of exploration and discovery, here’s a look at our top five favourite scientific breakthroughs:

Genomics/DNA: While the term ‘genomics’ was only coined in 1986, by geneticist Tom Roderick, the actual study of the human genome is more extensive than that. A genome is defined as all the genetic information of an organism, and therefore genomics, the study of the complete genetic material of these organisms.

Gregor Mendel

Selective breeding has been practiced for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until the Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel undertook his studies in the mid-19th century that modern genetics as we know it was born. Do you remember practicing Mendel’s laws in school, determining traits in offspring based on dominant and recessive traits? It was the most fun to be had in biology.

Later, British Nobel Prize-winners James D. Watson and Francis Crick published the discovery of the helical structure of DNA, based on work done by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling, and then molecular biologists began to sequence nucleic acids. By 2001, the Human Genome Project completed a rough draft of the human genome, a feat which is being replicated with the 1000 Genomes Project. Now, scientists are using genomics to forge the way forward in personalised medicine, conservation, synthetic biology and gene editing. This all within the relatively short space of 150 years!

Domestication of plants & fermentation: Perhaps not a ‘discovery’, the domestication of plants definitely changed the course of human history, allowing populations to settle and grow. Plant domestication first occurred about 10,000 years ago in the Middle East. This change from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural societies is largely seen as the beginning of the rise of civilisation.

Often, crops would go bad before they could be consumed, so in order to make the yields last longer and feed more, humans began to use a chemical process called fermentation in the Neolithic Age. This process converts sugars and carbohydrates to acids, gases or alcohol, and it was used to preserve food and beverages. Some of our favourite food and drinks were invented thanks to fermentation, including beer, wine, yoghurt, kimchi and sauerkraut (not that this is the only reason it made the list).

Alexander Fleming in his St Mary’s lab in London

Penicillin/antibiotics: Discovered in 1928 by Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming, penicillin became the world’s first true antibiotic. By the time Fleming made this discovery, scientists had reported the antibacterial properties of some moulds, including penicillium. But they were unable to successfully harness these properties. For his part, Fleming recounted that his historically famous discovery was a lucky accident. After mistakenly leaving a Petri dish containing Staphylococci exposed in his lab, he returned from holiday and noticed it had grown a blue-green mould. The mould slowed the growth of the bacteria around it, and after studying this effect, Fleming was able to use his ‘mould juice’ (blegh) to kill a range of harmful bacteria.

Ultimately, this discovery has greatly reduced the number of deaths from infection, playing an enormous role in improving the mortality rates around the globe. Today, antimicrobial resistance is a growing concern, and medical professionals warn that if we do not discover new classes of antibiotics, infections could kill as many as ten million people a year by 2050. But scientists are looking for new antibiotics in unexpected places, like toilet seats, dog food bowls, and even laptop keyboards.

Steam engine: Another British invention, the steam engine is not so much a scientific breakthrough as it is a series of breakthroughs over the course of one hundred years, and it certainly changed the course of human history. This invention has roots in Roman times, but it wasn’t until the 17th century when Englishman Thomas Savery developed a model of the steam engine that it became a promising innovation. Soon after, another Englishman, Thomas Newcomen, and Scottish engineer James Watt made the design more efficient and the rest, as they say, was history.

James Watt’s steam engine at the Thinktank museum in Birmingham (© Copyright Ashley Dace)

Connected to a piston and cylinder, a boiler filled with water is heated until the water turns to steam. Once the steam expands, it travels through the cylinder and moves the piston first forward, and then, once the steam is cooled, backward. This back-and-forth process, attached to a larger machine, moves the machine forward, in what must be one of the most rudimentary explanations ever of this amazing process. This engine was adapted for use in boats, cars, and, of course, trains. The idea that people began to cross continents in record time just by turning a liquid into a gas over and over is pretty bonkers when you think about it.

Periodic table: This one may be last on our list, but it’s definitely not last in our hearts. Chemists have spent a lot of time throughout history on the classification of chemical elements, but when Russian chemistry professor Dmitri Mendeleev got hold of it, things changed. He published his version in 1869, much to the chagrin of German chemist Julius Lothar Meyer, who published his version just one year later in 1870 and probably thought we’d all be talking about “Meyer’s Table” right now.

Like others before him, Mendeleev saw when elements were listed in order of atomic weight, elements at certain intervals shared physical and chemical properties. But Mendeleev left gaps in the table, predicting where an element hadn’t yet been discovered and it’s properties. He also took care to classify elements into ‘chemical families’. And just like any good developer, he released an updated version in 1871. Adjustments have been made from time to time, when new elements have been discovered or to make the table more easily readable, but Mendeleev is still considered the Father of the Periodic Table.

What are your favourite breakthroughs?

Are apprenticeships the future of science?

Prof Sir John Holman, president of the RSC, speaks with apprentice Krzysztof Pilec and former apprentice Amy Rogers about their roles. (© Royal Society of Chemistry/Richard Stonehouse)

This week marks the 11th annual National Apprenticeship Week, a time for organisations across the country to celebrate the success of apprenticeships and encourage more people to participate in their schemes.

Apprenticeships provide an alternative to young people who either don’t wish to or are unable to attend university, and in some cases, they can complement university studies.  These schemes give students the chance to learn on their feet in real work environments, while earning money and achieving professional qualifications. And evidence shows that they work. Ninety-two percent of apprentices feel that their apprenticeship has had a positive impact on their career prospects. But there’s still a way to go in the science community to providing these opportunities to future scientists.

In the last academic year, there were nearly 500,000 apprenticeships. Yet fewer than 300 of those are in science, which accounts for less than one percent of all apprenticeships. This limits paths to those who’d like to pursue careers in science, and if we want the best and brightest of a diverse workforce pushing science into the future, this gap needs to be addressed.

As we’ve learned through our own accredited apprenticeship programme, students welcome the opportunity to get on-the-job training and experience in a professional environment. Many of our apprentices even go on to get hired as qualified scientists with LGC.

If you’re considering pursuing a science apprenticeship, don’t just take our word for it: hear it straight from one of our own apprentices, Krzysztof Pilec, who helped us understand what his apprenticeship means to him.

What is your role at LGC?

“I’m an apprentice at LGC, completing a Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Chemical Science for Industry and currently, I work in the Large Molecule Bioanalysis department as an Assistant Scientist. I also attend an education program run by CSR, who specialise in training apprentices and work with LGC on their apprentice program. Out of this program I will also receive a Level 4 Laboratory and Associated Technical Activities qualification.

What are some of your day-to-day tasks?

“My day-to-day job consists of quality control checking proformas, carrying out assays, maintaining the lab and even handling data through Watson, software we use to analyse data. I’ve learned a lot of things at LGC, including how to take care and maintain the equipment we use and how the samples are processed through the facility, from delivery to the project management in the form of data. I’m still learning how to completely understand, set up and carry out an assay. I have some experience in carrying out assays, but I haven’t yet gotten the hang of how to set one up. I’m learning that now. Also, I’m learning how to write professional reports, including where to look to get the information and data to write one.”c

How do you feel about your apprenticeship?

“Overall I don’t think it is possible to be any happier with the choice of signing up for this apprenticeship. It has been an enjoyable, fun and incredibly educational time for me at this company as an apprentice. I think what I like the best at LGC is that after successfully completing the course, you get a very high chance of employment as a professional scientist, so nothing you learn here is ever going to waste.”

To find out more about our apprenticeship programme, visit our website, or register to attend our Science Apprenticeship Open Day next month.

Finding harmony in newborn blood spot screening

Every forty seconds, a baby is born in the UK. That’s nearly 775,000 births across the United Kingdom in 2016 alone. It’s important that each of these children is given their best chance at a healthy future from the moment they are born.

Currently, all parents of newborns in the UK are offered newborn blood spot screening, a test which detects nine conditions and inherited diseases, including cystic fibrosis, congenital hypothyroidism, and sickle cell disease. The level of hormones or amino acids in the blood at the time the sample is taken leads to early detection. The goal is to detect and treat conditions before they cause severe developmental problems or unnecessary suffering so children can lead as normal lives as possible.

With the number of infants tested each year and the use of nationally agreed protocols with specified cut-off values, harmonisation of methods across the 14 laboratories performing these tests is extremely vital.  Each time a sample is analysed, it should produce the same results. The cost and time of retesting samples can be great and can cause unnecessary stress to the families at an already challenging time.  Additionally, the network of newborn screening laboratories in the UK should have access to the newest, most accurate methods and data.

This is why we have partnered with Dr Rachel Carling, one of the country’s foremost authorities on newborn screening, and the NHS England as part of the CSO’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), a programme that teams up leaders in healthcare with the UK National Measurement System’s lab, including the National Measurement Laboratory (NML) at LGC, to solve measurement challenges in their fields.

Through the partnership, we plan to help create methods and materials that will lead to greater harmonisation and provide a framework within which more analytes can be added to the UK’s screening programme to be able to test for new diseases at birth.

As part of the KTP, LGC’s Chris Hopley and Simon Cowen will be discussing best practice in newborn screening with the network of labs at a workshop in London this week. Together, we hope to help deliver greater efficiency and certainty for these children and their families.

Analysis for Innovators: How we can solve your measurement problem

LGC, in our role as the UK National Measurement Laboratory and Designated Institute for chemical and bio-measurement, partnered with Innovate UK to launch a new funding programme ‘Analysis for Innovators’ (A4I) last year.

The aim of A4I was simple: to solve real problems affecting productivity or performance of UK companies of all sizes using the world-leading measurement facilities available at LGC and other national laboratories (NPL, NEL, STFC).

After the success of the first round, Analysis for Innovators is opening a new round of applications in March to UK companies who wish to take advantage of our expertise, research and development to help solve a measurement problem. And this year’s round has £4 million reserved to fund 12-month projects, with up to £250,000 for each project.

Companies are asked to submit a two-minute video outlining an existing measurement problem, without providing any solutions. This gives us insight in to what the obstacle looks like, the approaches the companies have already tried, and how solving it might change their business going forward.

After watching the videos from last year’s competition, LGC scientists sat down with the competition winners and discussed the problems in more detail. This approach encouraged creative thinking from our scientists and provided companies with access to our experts even if they did not progress to the next competition stage. In fact, feedback from the first round indicated that this stage was itself incredibly useful, and as a result the initial successful outcome of the current A4I programme will be a longer consultancy session with our measurement experts before progressing on to potential projects.

Previous collaborations included developing an assay to continuously monitor cortisol for a wearable device to improve diagnosis and treatment of disease, improving the sensitivity of a novel assay developed to ensure the safety of cell therapy products, and optimising an innovative non-chemical disinfection process to provide a cost-effective system for cleaning water and other fluids.

This programme benefits companies who otherwise would not be able to consult with our scientists, but it also benefits LGC by giving us the opportunity to see the outcomes of the vital measurement work we do every day. Our scientists are at the forefront of measurement technology, so it’s exciting to see how our science can affect and change lives for the better. These applications of our expertise remind us why what we do is important and inspire us to continue.

If you’re planning on applying for the next round of funding, or if you’d just like to learn more about the programme, register to join us at one of the remaining roadshows in February and March. We’ll be there to help share the work of our collaborations and illustrate how our analysis can help solve your problem.