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Taking the laboratory to the sample

Utah Success Stories

(DOUG JESSOP’S UTAH SUCCESS STORIES – ABC4 NEWS – PROVO, UT) It’s no secret that Utah is come to lots of technology. In this episode of Utah Success Stories I visited with a company that is “taking the laboratory to the sample.”

Chromatography is used to separate samples into their individual parts. Translation – what exactly is in whatever is being testing. Scientists are trying to determine at the molecular level exactly what they have. Just think about something as simple as ‘is my water pure’ down to 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 very well known throughout the world as one of the leading chromatographers and analytical scientist anywhere.  He showed me his latest creation; “This instrument is a capillary liquid chromatography system a portable one.”

When you think of laboratory equipment you usually think of big machines in huge rooms.  A Utah based company, Axcend has figured out a way to change that. Their CEO, Glen Mella, explained; “Imagine the benefits if you could bring the lab to the sample and actually do the analysis right at the point of need.

The secret to their success is miniaturization. Glen had 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. A laptop, a phone, a tablet. “

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

Chief Science Officer, Dr. Milton Lee, not only miniaturized the equipment, but he’s also made it easier to use. “Everything in this system has been tested and pre-calibrated and put together in a compact unit that makes it very easy for the user to just plug this into the system and begin immediately to run.”

Glen added; “While primarily it’s made by scientist for scientists, we do believe that over time we can lower the technical hurdle that is required to operate and instrument like this.” With that said, one of my favorite things while meeting with companies is to be able to participate in what they are doing.

Axcend’s COO, Greg Ward, taught me how to run a sample. Because everything is pre-calibrated, I didn’t have to mess with any adjustments. They already had a sample from a pharmaceutical company that is using their technology. I simply turned a dustcover, used a syringe to draw the sample out of a vial, injected the sample into a port on the machine and pushed a couple buttons on a computer. It was interesting to see the computer screen show spikes at certain points during the test. Those spikes show that a specific substance is present in the sample. When the sample cycled Greg smiled and reached to shake my hand and said, “I’d like to congratulate you, Doug, you are now a certified chromatographer.

A big part of “The Why” behind Axcend focuses on reducing toxic lab waste If you ran the Axcend machine twenty-four- seven for something like a week, you might generate a teaspoon of waste. Glen showed me their toxic waste container and told me; “We have yet to empty it in three years.”

The other part of the “why” for Axcend is tied to the portability that opens up the scope of applications. Everything from testing samples in space to the perfect time to harvest a crop, as well as helping with things as important as the opioid crisis. Mella got passionate about the impact that having on-site results could have for pain clinics; “Answers to questions whether somebody has a banned substance right now in their blood stream can be answered within minutes rather than in days that could potentially the difference between saving someone’s life.”

With another Utah Success Story, I’m Doug Jessop, ABC4 News.

Doug Jessop
For Doug Jessop, it all started with a cassette recorder he got for Christmas when he was 12 years old growing up in Southern California. Doug interviewed relatives, friends and anyone else that might have a good story. You can follow Doug at www.DougJessop.com, on YouTube.com/DougJessop, and @DougJessopNews on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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