Lab Notes: The Best Laboratory Products of 2015

Scientists weigh in on what products they have discovered that have made their lab lives a little easier.

Each year, thousands of new and improved tools for scientific research hit the market, and it can be difficult to determine which products are worth the investment. To help researchers decide how to outfit their labs, ScienceSelect, an independent online resource for scientists, takes an annual vote on the best laboratory products in the world.

Called the “Scientists’ Choice Awards,” the rankings are based on nominations and votes by about 7,400 members of the global scientific community. The most recent winners were announced in Philadelphia at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) this past April. There are three categories: Best New General Lab Product, Best New Separations Product, and Best New Spectroscopy Product. This year, ScienceSelect introduced an additional subset of awards called Reviewers’ Choice, which rewards the merits of top manufacturers.

Best New General Lab Product

Top prize in the general product realm went to the Multipette® M4/Repeater® M4, made by Eppendorf. This handy little instrument allows lab workers to quickly and accurately pipet with one hand, and can dispense up to 100 times without refill — higher than competing products.

The Repeater reduces the risk of contamination during dispensing actions with a special ejection tip that helps avoid contact, and offers 20 volume settings. It also contains a sensor that shows the tip volume on a display screen, which gets rid of manual calculations. A motion sensor allows the machine to automatically switch off when it is not being used to save power. It is ideal for use with toxic and dangerous solutions and projects that require repetitive, precise dispensing.

Best New Separations Product

With a name reminiscent of a space-age death ray, the Vanquish™ UHPLC System immediately sets big expectations for its abilities. This high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) instrument from Thermo Scientific apparently does not disappoint, as it took home first place in the separations category.

Among its attributes, the Vanquish™ system claims unparalleled sample dosage precision, air stream cooling to maintain sample integrity, automated workflows with barcode reading, and up to nine different solvent combinations. The system also runs on Chromatography Data Systems (CDS) software, specifically Chromeleon, which helps streamline processes and reduce training time with a user-friendly design. These features improve efficiency and separations, and allow for the expeditious analysis of samples.

Best New Spectroscopy Product

Like the other first prize winners, the NexION 350 ICP-MS Spectrometers received major points for its time-saving qualities. This machine boasts a data acquisition speed 10 times faster than any other ICP-MS on the market. Users claim that it “enhances signal stability” while simultaneously providing “superior uptime.”

Even with heavy use, the NexION 350 ICP-MS seems to uphold its performance. It requires less maintenance than other machines because it does not have extractions lenses to clean. Additionally, a triple cone interface offers the most tightly focused ion beam on the market and inhibits the build-up of sample deposits within the spectrometer.

In reviews, this spectrometer is described as easy to set up and operate, but users caution against processing high-salt solutions and say the software could be simpler. Overall, it is most recommended for routine work.

Reviewer’s Choice Awards

Similar to the Scientist’s Choice Awards, the new Reviewer’s Choice Awards include three categories: Product of the Year, Company of the Year, and Customer Service of the year. These recommendations help researchers decide which manufacturers to purchase from, in addition to highlighting the most popular piece of equipment based on online reviews.

Made by Waters Corporation, the ACQUITY Ultra-Performance Liquid Chromatography (UPLC) System won the most positive reviews–a total of 84–and was awarded Product of the Year. This UPLC system claims great speed, sensitivity, and resolution, and is described as ideal for drug discovery by the manufacturer.

Veronique Carrier, a reviewer from GlaxoSmithKline, writes, “[I] went from 60 minute runs to 3 minute runs. [It] saves a lot of time.”

Among many positive reviews, there was also some criticism. A number of reviews cite issues with the software, while others say it often needs maintenance or repair. However, most reviewers agree that the system is easy to fix thanks to great after sales service.

The Company of the Year Award went to Thermo Fisher Scientific based on 540 reviews of its 1,087 products. The company provides products with a wide range of applications ranging from diagnostic equipment to reagents. Reviews consistently rank them highly for ease of use, after sales service, and value for money.

Similarly, Agilent Technologies took home the prize for Best Customer service based on positive user feedback. Agilent claims to be “the world’s premier measurement company and a technology leader in chemical analysis, life sciences, diagnostics, electronics, and communications.” The company employs over 20,000 people to help its customers across the globe.

Additional information and reviews on a wide variety of lab products can be found on the ScienceSelect website (www.selectscience.net).

—Mapes is a Washington D.C.-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to Endocrine News. She wrote about the artificial pancreas in pediatric patients in the May issue.

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