“Demand for reliable analytical instrumentation has increased during COVID-19”

Reliable lab instrumentation and equipment providing rapid, accurate results can go a long way in fast-tracking the analysis of treatment drugs, says Saikat Banerjee, Business and Application Manager - LCMS and Automation at Agilent Technologies India

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Saikat Banerjee is the Business and Application Manager - LCMS and Automation at Agilent Technologies. He is responsible for leading a pan India team of product managers and application scientists to fulfill the business objectives in the India region. With a career spanning over 15 years, Saikat has an in-depth understanding of various markets and customer needs.
In this exclusive ‘Chat with BioVoice’, Mr Saikat Banerjee, Business and Application Manager – LCMS and Automation at Agilent Technologies India explains the importance of analytical instrumentation in accelerating drug discovery during COVID-19 besides the company’s current business operations, impact on sales due to the pandemic, market trends and much more. Read the complete interview:

BV LogoWhy is there a growing need for reliable analytical instrumentation to help pharmaceutical labs manage the analysis of potential COVID-19 drug candidates? What makes the process different than regular drug development?
At Agilent, one of our key priorities is to continue offering our support, resources and insights to essential pharmaceutical labs developing potential treatment antiviral drugs or vaccines for COVID-19.
Reliable lab instrumentation and equipment providing rapid, accurate results can go a long way in fast-tracking the analysis of treatment drugs. For instance, the ability of analytical systems such as, LC-MS/MS to provide consistent, reliable and accurate measurement, is highly crucial in long precision and accuracy batches of bioequivalence studies. Moreover, a cost-effective and highly selective bioanalytical method generating results with high reproducibility and accuracy is needed to check for the efficacy of potential treatment drugs. To that effect, Agilent introduced their robust, cost-effective LC-MS/MS system and methods to the bioequivalence market which provides excellent reproducibility, accuracy and high reliability.
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Agilent claims that its analytical instruments such as LC-MS/MS system provide reliable measurement in long precision and accuracy batches of bioequivalence studies. Would you please explain the benefits of the system?
Even though multiple methods on quantitation of anti-viral drugs using LC-MS/MS systems are available, the low cost method developed by Agilent is reliable in terms of its repeatability, consistency and accuracy. Repeatability, which reflects the closeness of agreement of a series of measurements under the same operating conditions, is expected to give the smallest possible variation in results. Consistency of the result was evaluated at lowest limit of quantitation (LLOQ) of one of the antiviral drugs used for the treatment of COVID-19 by 300 repeated injections. The relative standard deviation for 300 injections was found to be 6.4%, which demonstrates the ruggedness of the Agilent 6470 TQ hardware even without intense sample cleanup. Validation recommendations by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) on accuracy within-run and between runs is ± 15% of nominal concentrations except ± 20% at LLOQ. This obtained result generated through this solution gives confidence on drug quantitation, suitable for assays and pharmacokinetic studies. Additionally, Agilent’s software solutions enable customers to meet the requirements stipulated by the 21 CFR Part 11 of USFDA regulation.
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How is Agilent’s bioanalytical method for the analysis of drugs such as Montelukast in plasma using LC-MS/MS cost-effective and highly selective?
Extraction of Montelukast in plasma is based on a liquid-liquid extraction based sample preparation and no clean up step is involved in this method. This method of extraction and partitioning is used to separate compounds, based on their relative solubilities in two different immiscible liquids. Compared to SPE (solid phase extraction), matrix effect would be high with liquid-liquid extraction. Matrix components may interfere with the ionization of the drug molecule and can cause either suppression or enhancement of intensity of the drug. Also, the presence of huge matrix peaks especially at LLOQ level of the drug may cause troubles in chromatographic peak integration. But the obtained LLOQ chromatogram for Montelukast shows no interference from matrix and ensures confident integration of the analyte.
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What has been the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on product sales at Agilent? Please share a few specific experiences with clients in industry and academia.
The impact of COVID-19 was most apparent in the initial months of the lockdown, as the industry worked towards adapting to the new normal. While the pandemic may have affected business early on, we ensured that we continued to service our customers, supporting them through these trying times.
The pandemic has also presented us with certain opportunities, for instance, the demand for our analytical instrumentation has increased, thus providing an opportunity for growth in the pharmaceutical segment. There has also been an increase in investments in high end mass spectrometry systems to match the regulatory needs for drug molecules. Certain drug molecules also attract re-attention, thus inviting more investments.
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How do you connect with the clients in absence of physical interactions? How is your company leveraging the digital intervention route during a lockdown?
The pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have completely transformed the ways in which businesses are operating across different industries. Remote working and social distancing norms, due to COVID 19, are changing the way lab operations are currently run. Technology is the critical driver in the new scenario. It is resulting in greater adaptation and acceptance of digital technologies like virtual asset monitoring, e-renewals, live chats with our representatives, virtual collaboration and online ordering.
At Agilent, we have also hosted a series of webinars for our customers on various application areas. Additionally, we introduced virtual demonstrations/sample analysis through our virtual center of excellence laboratories, providing a new experience and personalized content to our customers. Along with our customers, we are equally focused on enabling smooth functioning for our employees. With Agilent’s digital initiatives, we have been conducting virtual interactive events, webinars, and upskilling initiatives for our employees’ well-being and overall development.
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What are the latest technology trends in drug development in terms of new innovations? How is Agilent contributing to that in the global and Indian context?
The scientific and medical research communities stand united in their steadfast efforts to find not just a vaccine for COVID-19, but other effective therapeutics such as antiviral drugs, peptide inhibitors, nucleoside analogues, and monoclonal antibodies. One of the upcoming and highly promising trends are treatments based on customized medicine. Advances in customized medicine aim to create a treatment approach specific to the individual and their genome. Such treatments may provide earlier intervention, more efficient drug development and targeted therapies. DNA sequence information is enabling entirely new fields such as the microbiome and metagenomics. With its advanced analytical instrumentation/genomics platforms, Agilent is at the forefront to support researchers in developing novel therapies.
Another technological trend that will continue to gain industry attention is the utilization of data science and analytics to make labs smarter and more efficient. Smarter lab equipment offering predictive maintenance and real-time monitoring enable reduced downtime and faster repairs, ensuring the maximum utilization of high-value instruments. These are important factors we consider while developing a solution in order to improve the economics of analytical and clinical laboratories in terms of lab productivity and operational efficiency.  It is important for the life sciences and healthcare industry to start looking forward at what trends will arise, inoculating labs against future disruptions and their impact, with the support of analytical and laboratory instrumentation companies.