Problem: It is essential for medicinal chemists to have access to analytical instrumentation for reaction monitoring and product analysis. However, due to the associated high capital cost and maintenance overheads, it is not possible to install and support instrumentation in every lab across a research site.
As a result, submission of chemical and biological samples to equipment such as HPLC and GC/MS requires substantial manual effort. Typically samples are formulated and collated into racks before manually being entered into analytical instrumentation. This can be a time-consuming, error-prone and inefficient process.
Solution: The Horsham Sector of Novartis Global Discovery Chemistry initiated a project with TTP LabTech to develop a system for connecting remote medicinal chemistry labs on different floors of the building to LCMS instruments in a central analytical chemistry lab. The result is LAB2LAB from TTP LabTech.
LAB2LAB is a novel laboratory sample transport and management system for linking laboratories to existing analytical instrumentation. LAB2LAB transfers samples from remote laboratories to existing HPLC, LCMS, GC/MS, UPLC and NMR equipment, and allows unattended operation of equipment, thereby reducing sample queues, optimizing instrument use and increasing the speed of data generation. It is simple to install, easy to customize and easy to expand.
The system connects labs from anywhere in the building to analytical instrumentation via a low-pressure compressed air system. Each sample tube has a unique 2D barcode. To submit a sample, the chemist scans the tube and selects one or more methods. An ELN reference is assigned and the tube is placed in a LAB2LAB Sender. LAB2LAB transports and directs samples to the most appropriate analytical instrument available and results are automatically returned to the originator’s ELN. In addition, LAB2LAB can prioritize and hold samples in a buffer/ holding space if the analytical equipment is busy or otherwise unavailable; this allows low-priority analyses to run overnight.
The initial phase of integration of the LAB2LAB system into the Novartis Horsham site involved linking six medicinal chemistry laboratories to one Agilent 1200 HPLC. Next, a Waters ACQUITY UPLCMS instrument was added for reaction monitoring. Sample throughput increased dramatically to 100+ per day. In the final phase, a second ACQUITY UPLC-MS of the same configuration was added. Both the 1200 HPLC and ACQUITY UPLC-MS analyzers were existing instrumentation owned by Novartis and neither required modification for use with the LAB2LAB system.
These three analyzers now support in excess of 250 sample submissions per day. LAB2LAB provides the chemist with a ‘virtual instrument’ in every laboratory, capable of running a variety of methods. Figure 1 shows the results from an analysis of the time taken for a chemist to physically submit a sample vial to UPLC-MS instrumentation and to receive data in his Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN). The data show the response of a single UPLC-MS (Series 1) and two UPLC-MS instruments (Series 2) in managing a queue of samples. The data include samples that have been submitted for multiple methods, including samples submitted using methods which would take longer than the standard 2 minute reaction monitoring time set by the machines. Additionally, outliers show the effect on queue times as a result of taking an instrument offline for maintenance. As the number of samples per day increases to more than 100, a single UPLC-MS instrument struggles to cope. The addition of a second analyzer within LAB2LAB, which manages the queuing and distribution, is shown to reduce the queue time significantly. More than 250 samples per day are being run with an average queue time of < 30 minutes.
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