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BYU professor mobilizes liquid chromatography system

By Karissa Neely daily Herald - | Mar 22, 2018

Most people might not be able to pronounce what Axcend does, but this new, local company is already earning awards for its prototype.

The team behind Axcend has developed a compact nanoflow liquid chromatography system. Its prototype is about the size of a four-slot toaster, but way cooler. With its smaller, innovative design, the Axcend prototype can separate liquid and solid samples into their molecular components more quickly and with less sample amount than machines five times its size.

Various industries — including environmental, pharmaceutical, clinical, food and beverage, and forensic science — use liquid chromatography, a method that utilizes a liquid solvent to separate and identify chemicals in various samples, to discover their chemical compositions and properties.

Milton Lee, Axcend co-founder and chief science officer and an inventor of the new system, explains that typical liquid chromatography systems cost upwards of $50,000 and use liquid solvent volumes during sample analysis at flow rates of milliliters per minute. With the Axcend nanoflow liquid chromatography system, scientists using the instrument will require less sample size and less solvents during use. It also will cost less than one-half the price.

“We’re coming along with the world’s first truly mobile, truly portable solution,” Lee said.

Those working in industries that rely on analytical chemistry will save money on the initial purchase of the Axcend system, as well as saving money on the costs to use it, he explained.

“Today, it costs more to dispose of the solvent than it does to buy it,” Lee said. “The cost comes way down from using this system, and the amount of waste also goes way down.”

For Lee, and for Glen Mella, Axcend co-founder and CEO, one of the best traits of their system is that it requires less training for users. Those using typical liquid chromatographs must go through a series of intricate steps, involving wrenches and other tools, to switch out replacement components.

“We have all of that in cartridge form,” Mella said. “You just pop it out and pop it in.”

Best of all, Lee said, is the system’s portability, though. No longer will organizations need to acquire a sample, cool it during transport to a center, and wait for it to be analyzed. All while the sample erodes from its original composition.

“The alternative is to carry this right into the field. You set it down next to the river, and test your water sample right there,” Lee said.

“The key is it’s portable, self-contained, durable and robust and it can work right there to analyze the sample,” Mella added. “The result of your sample can go right to your smartphone there in the field. Or to your computer when you are back in the lab.”

The technology behind the Axcend system came out of Lee’s research program while professor of chemistry at Brigham Young University. Using BYU’s Technology Transfer office, Lee and Mella were able to partner to commercialize the technology.

“This will open up new analytical opportunities people aren’t even doing today, but they could be doing,” Mella said.

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