• Thu. Aug 18th, 2022

Bring the lab to the sample

ByRandall B. Phelps

Jul 12, 2021

(DOUG JESSOP’S UTAH SUCCESS STORIES – ABC4 NEWS – PROVO, UT) It’s no secret that Utah has come to a lot of tech. In this episode of Utah Success Stories, I visited a company that is “bring the lab to the sample.”

Chromatography is used to separate samples into their individual parts. Translation – what exactly is in everything that is tested. Scientists are trying to determine molecular level exactly what they have. Just think of something as simple as “is my water pure” down to the parts per million, parts per billion or even parts per trillion level of analysis.

Dr Milton Lee, recently retired from a forty-year teaching career at Brigham Young University. He is widely known around the world as one of the best chromatographers and scientific analysts in the world. He showed me his latest creation; “This instrument is a portable capillary liquid chromatography system.”

When you think of lab equipment, you usually think of big machines in huge rooms. A Utah-based company, Ascend found a way to change that. Their CEO, Glen Mella, Explain; “Imagine the benefits if you could bring the lab to the sample and perform the analysis at the point where you need it.

The secret of their success is miniaturization. Glen made me lift the machine and said, “The AXCEND LC is about the size of a shoebox and weighs eighteen pounds. It runs on a ten hour continuous battery that can be recharged overnight. And you can control it with any computing device. Laptop, phone, tablet. “

Glen showed me a graph that looked like a thick line and explained that it was actually fifty tests that showed the same results. You’ll see multiple runs that look like a single line to you, but when we zoom in you can actually see dozens or very many runs of the same sample that give you the exactly the same results.”

Scientific Director Dr. Milton Lee not only miniaturized the equipment, but also made it easier to use. “Everything in this system has been tested and pre-calibrated and assembled into a compact unit that allows the user to very easily plug it into the system and start working immediately.

Glen added; “Although it is primarily designed by scientists for scientists, we believe that over time we can reduce the technical barrier which is necessary to operate and instrument like this. That said, one of my favorite things about meeting companies is being able to participate in what they are doing.

chief operating officer of Axcend, Greg Ward, taught me how to analyze a sample. Because everything is pre-calibrated, I didn’t have to worry about adjustments. They already had a sample from a pharmaceutical company that uses their technology. I simply twisted a dust cap, used a syringe to take the sample from a vial, injected the sample into a port on the machine, and pressed a few buttons on a computer. It was interesting to see the computer screen show spikes at times during the test. These spikes show that a specific substance is present in the sample. As the sample cycled, Greg smiled and reached out to shake my hand and said, “I would like to congratulate you, Doug, you are now a certified chromatograph.

Much of the “Why” behind Axcend focuses on reduce toxic laboratory waste If you run the Axcend machine 24/7 for about a week, you may end up with a teaspoon of waste. Glen showed me their toxic waste container and said; “We still have to empty it into three years.”

The other part of the “why” of Axcend is related to the portability which opens the field of applications. Everything from testing samples in space, to the perfect time to harvest a crop, to helping with things as important as the opioid crisis. Mella was passionate about the impact on-site results could have for pain clinics; “Answers to questions about whether someone currently has a banned substance in their blood can be answered in minutes rather than days, which could potentially mean the difference between saving someone’s life.”

With another success story from Utah, I’m Doug Jessop, ABC4 News.

For Doug Jessop, it all started with a cassette tape recorder he received for Christmas when he was 12 growing up in Southern California. Doug interviewed relatives, friends and anyone else who might have a good story. You can follow Doug on www.DougJessop.comto YouTube.com/DougJessopand @DougJessopNews on Facebook, instagram and Twitter.