First-time Exhibitors Showcase Innovative Lab Products
Clinical Lab Expo Hits New Record for Exhibitors
By Bill Malone
What’s the buzz at the Clin Lab Expo this year? Innovation. As the field of in vitro diagnostics pushes forward to meet 21st century challenges, companies that provide new tools for clinical labs must move swiftly to stay on top of emerging technologies and the latest clinical developments. This year’s Clin Lab Expo showcases the full spectrum of tools that clinical lab scientists are looking for to meet new challenges in providing test results. A long list of exhibitors from around the globe has chosen this year’s Expo in San Diego to make their debut and display their innovative products. Already the largest clinical lab exposition in the world, attendees and exhibitors will remember 2007 as a record-breaking year for AACC’s Expo, with close to 700 exhibitors and almost 1,850 booths filling the San Diego Convention Center this week.
Along with the major diagnostic companies, laboratorians and visitors to the Expo will find that first-time exhibitors showcase not only cutting-edge technologies and devices, but also aim to bring more options to labs feeling the weight of tightening budgets and hotter competition. Many of the new exhibitors are young companies, ready to show off fresh concepts. Others have been around a little longer, but are now prepared to broaden their customer base and take advantage of the size and diversity of the AACC show. All are eager to make a good first impression on large numbers of potential customers who are here to judge for themselves which products will truly help them navigate the future of lab testing.
Overcoming Problem Samples: AcroMetrix
Laboratorians working to characterize their home-brew assays may want to take a look at a unique product from Benicia, California-based AcroMetrix. The company designed its new OptiChallenge Inhibition Panel with seven of the most common interfering substances found in serum, whole blood, and plasma. Including heparin, lipids, bilirubin, and hemolyzed plasma, it is the first panel to have quantified amounts of these troublemakers. “It’s a really great way of saying, ‘Here are all of your problem samples in one box.’ You can use the panel now, and in three years when you’re creating another assay, you’re going to have the same standards to compare assay results,” said AcroMetrix spokesperson Audrey Hughey. The OptiChallenge panel can also be used for assay validation, instrument evaluation, and troubleshooting.
In addition to the new panel, AcroMetrix has spent the past nine years developing quality controls, quantification panels, and validation kits for viral assays, including HIV, HCV, HPV, EBV, and EV. “All of our products are whole-virus controls, so they go through the entire process,” explained Hughey. “They’re able to control for everything from the operator error when they’re prepping samples, to the implementation and the extraction. So that sets our product apart from a kit control that you would get with your assay.” According to Hughey, the company also prides itself on lot-to-lot consistency. With manufacturing facilities in California and Alkmaar, The Netherlands, the company conducts all critical nucleic acid and serological testing in its own laboratories. “We’ve got some great in-house procedures that provide us with exactly the same thing, every single time. So whereas some people may experience a very large difference within one lot with one of our competitor’s products, they often can’t tell when they’ve changed lots when they’re using ours,” she said.
Visit AcroMetrix at booth number 453.
Genetic Testing for Selected Diseases: Ambry Genetics
A little more than an hour’s drive north of San Diego, you’ll find the Aliso Viejo headquarters of Ambry Genetics. Founded in 2000, Ambry has been accepting samples at its specialty genetic testing lab since 2001, when it was the first and only commercial lab offering full gene sequencing analysis for cystic fibrosis (CF). In addition to being the first to launch sequencing tests for diseases such as Tay-Sachs and Canavan, the growing company has developed an exclusive three-gene panel for pancreatitis, as well as a menu of tests for lung problems such as surfactant protein deficiency and alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. “When we started testing like this it was controversial,” said Steve Keiles, Director of Genetic Services. “Now, we are the leader. We’ve sequenced more patients than all the other genetic testing labs combined, with regard to CF. And that includes some of the large commercial labs that have unsuccessfully tried to replicate our business. We are now one of the leading laboratories applying testing to everyday medicine.”
Ambry’s new, three-gene pancreatitis test uses a complete sequence analysis of genes known as CFTR (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator), PRSS1 (catatonic trypsinogen), and SPINK1 (serine protease inhibitor, Kazal type1). Mutations in these genes contribute to familial, acute, and chronic pancreatitis. “We’re the only lab that offers that kind of panel. There are some labs that do one or the other, but they also don’t do complete sequence analysis,” said Keiles. “Pancreatitis is something that has been under diagnosed or misdiagnosed for a long time, and so we feel like it is a lot more common than most people realize,” he said.
Visit Ambry Genetics at booth number 542.
Super Magnetic Immunoassays: Magnisense
Though most of the exhibitors at the Expo are here to show their latest products directly to laboratorians, many companies also exhibit because they are looking to partner with more established manufacturers. These companies can give Expo visitors a glimpse of new technology that may one day appear hidden inside a familiar laboratory instrument. One such OEM firm, Magnisense (Rosy-sous-Bois Cedex, France), believes its unique magnetic bead technology can bring an ELISA-level sensitivity to point-of-care testing. Magnisense designed its superparamagnetic-based system to make testing simple, robust, CLIA-compliant, and even cheaper per sample than other methods. “Most magnetic detection approaches try through sophisticated means to limit the background noise,” said Clay Péquignot, Director of Business Development. “We believe that by looking at superparamagnetic properties, we have achieved the holy grail of magnetic detection—to eliminate naturally occurring background noise.”
While magnetic beads are not new to diagnostics, interference from magnetic qualities that appear naturally even in materials not normally thought of as magnetic have beset other magnetic and paramagnetic bead systems, according to Péquignot. But by looking at distinctly superparamagnetic qualities, as Magnisense’s MIAtek platform does, the instrument is virtually blind to all other types of magnetic interference, leaving a signal that correlates very highly with exactly the amount of superparamagnetic material exposed to the instrument. “You could have a cell phone, an electric motor, or some magnets next to the reader, and all that pretty much equals out—it’s not really seen at all,” explained Péquignot. “As a consequence of that, you have a simple, low-cost instrument, and you have the ability to do a quantitative measurement without any visual interpretation.” The company hopes to find partners at the Expo who are interested in converting existing lateral flow immunoassays to Magnisense’s quantified, superparamagnetic reading method.
Visit Magnisense at booth number 3234..
Unique Automation: Integrated Lab Automation Solutions
For those looking for a unique solution to lab automation that links instruments from different vendors, Integrated Lab Automation Solutions (iLAS) has built its business on putting together highly reliable open automation systems that will work with any track-ready instrument for a reasonable cost. The brainchild of William Neely, MD, Medical Director for Detroit Medical Center University Laboratories in Michigan, the iLAS system design aims to be straightforward, functional, reliable, and user-friendly. “We’re one of the few, if not the only, automation company out there that not only builds the hardware, but we also wrote the software ourselves. So it is a true home-grown system,” said Peter Manes, VP of Sales. “There are a lot of claims out there of companies being ‘open.’ When in reality, although some of them can accept other vendors’ analyzers, our automation system allows all analyzers within the laboratory to be a part of the automation system.”
Based on Lean principles, iLAS lab automation systems also offer STAT prioritization, real-time specimen tracking, smart sorting and delivery, as well as special result analysis and remote software management. The systems also interfaces with the laboratory’s existing lab information system. “Anything from a small, medium, to even large laboratory would benefit greatly from the system. I think everybody, no matter what their size, is feeling the pinch in the laboratory today—the shortage of med techs, patient safety issues, and getting results out faster with few resources,” said Manes. The system can also work around those analyzers that don’t come track ready, with the track directing samples to manual takeout areas. Instead of sorting specimens into racks, iLAS systems sort the specimens on the track itself, sending them directly to those instruments.
Visit Integrated Lab Automation Solutions at booth number 945.
More New Products
First-time exhibitors aren’t the only companies showcasing new products. Attendees can also find a list of some of the hundreds of new products on display at the Expo at the New Product Review display located outside the entrance to Exhibit Hall E, next to the AACC Bookstore.