Whether PCR apps or high-tech analysis equipment for vaccine development: during the pandemic, the chemical analysis and biotech sector has demonstrated its strength. From June 21 to 24, 2022, the industry will come together in Munich at analytica, the leading trade fair for analysis, laboratory technology and biotechnology. “At analytica, about 120 exhibitors will present their innovations for combating the pandemic,” explains Armin Wittmann, Exhibition Director of analytica at Messe München.
Modern chemical analysis is indispensable for manufacturing vaccines and medications, for reliable virus detection and for mutation studies. Although we didn’t have to invent new analysis methods in the fight against SARS-CoV-2, they did have to be made specific to COVID-19—and equipment manufacturers managed to do this at breakneck speed. For example, in Munich, Thermo Fisher Scientific will inform visitors about the role of chromatography and mass spectrometry in virus research, vaccine characterization and more. The company will also present methods for investigating lipids that serve as mRNA carriers in vaccines. Numerous exhibitors at analytica—including major players in the sector like Analytik Jena, Bruker, PerkinElmer, Shimadzu and Waters – also have tools and technologies in their portfolios that are relevant to the coronavirus.
New tools in virus detection
Small, refined instruments such as Zymo Research’s collector system for swab and saliva samples are equally important in the fight against the pandemic. The patented tube with safety membrane contains a liquid that makes viruses harmless and conserves the sample—all without a cold chain. Reagent sets for PCR tests are also an immeasurable help. Merck, for instance, offers primers and probes whose sequences were published by Charité in Berlin. Many analytica exhibitors offer COVID-19 assays. For example, Promega’s products facilitate virus detection as well as research of virus proteins, antibodies and viral mechanisms. Additionally, the Bio-Rad booth will feature assays for wastewater monitoring. Because all infected persons excrete virus fragments, wastewater can be used for the early detection of pandemic waves.
The analysis is also based on PCR technology, for which the sample is put through several time-intensive heating and cooling cycles in a thermocycler. The app of analytica exhibitor Clemens is practical in this regard, as it allows PCR cycles in several devices to be controlled at the same time. For users who would like a special heating rate or other tailored features, Clemens also develops customer-specific PCR systems. New England Biolabs, in contrast, is presenting an alternative at analytica by the name of loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP), which does not use thermocycling and only takes around a half hour.
Focus on work safety
Precaution is key when dealing with SARS-CoV-2. So that no virus material escapes the laboratory air, Eppendorf—a supplier of numerous instruments for COVID-19 research and diagnostics—equips its centrifuges with aerosol-tight rotors. And for researchers in the pharmaceuticals sector who work with toxic ingredients, analytica exhibitor Axel Semrau is presenting automated systems, including a robot platform that weighs powder and doses it into as many as 288 containers—under inert gas if necessary. The system was developed in collaboration with the analytica exhibitors Mettler-Toledo and Jüke Systemtechnik.
“Combined expertise is the key to the fight against the coronavirus,” emphasizes Wittmann. “analytica initiates collaborations so that we can finally get COVID-19 under control and so that we are better prepared for future pandemics.” In addition to the trade fair, lectures and discussions of the analytica forums and the analytica conference will highlight the status of research and analysis topics related to COVID-19.