(DOUG JESSOP’S SUCCESS STORIES IN UTAH – ABC4 NEWS – PROVO, UT) It’s no secret that Utah has come up with a lot of tech. In this episode of Utah Success Stories, I visited a company that is “Bring the laboratory 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 at molecular level exactly what they have. Just think of something as simple as “is my water pure” to a parts per million, parts per billion, or even parts per trillion level of analysis.
Dr Milton Lee recently retired after a forty-year teaching career at Brigham Young University. He is widely known around the world as one of the world’s foremost chromatographers and analytical scientists. 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 company based in Utah, Axcend found a way to change that. Their CEO, Glen Mella, explained; âImagine the benefits if you could take the lab to the sample and do the analysis just when you need it.
The secret to their success is miniaturization. Glen made me lift the machine and said, âThe 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. A laptop, a phone, a 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 scans that look like you in a single row, but when we zoom in on them you can actually see dozens or more, multiple scans 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. âEverything in this system has been tested and pre-calibrated and assembled into a compact unit that makes it very easy for the user to plug it into the system and start operating immediately.
Glen added; âAlthough it is mainly made by scientists for scientists, we believe that over time we can lower the technical obstacle 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.
Axcend’s COO, Greg Ward, taught me how to analyze a sample. Because everything is pre-calibrated, I didn’t have to worry about the settings. They already had a sample of a pharmaceutical company that uses their technology. I simply twisted a dust cover, 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 showing spikes at certain points in the test. These peaks show that a specific substance is present in the sample. When the sample rode his bike, 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 âWhyâ behind Axcend focuses on reduce toxic lab waste If you run the Axcend machine around the clock for about a week, you could generate a teaspoon of waste. Glen showed me their toxic waste container and said; “We still have to empty it in three years. “
The other part of Axcend’s âwhyâ is linked to portability which opens up the field of applications. Everything from testing samples in space at the perfect time to harvest a crop, to helping with things as important as opioid crisis. Mella was passionate about the impact that having results on site could have for pain clinics; “The answers to questions about whether someone currently has a prohibited substance in their blood can be answered in minutes rather than days, which could potentially be the difference between saving someone’s life.”
With another success story from Utah, I’m Doug Jessop, ABC4 News.
The story contains sponsored content.