Courtesy of the Institute for Systems Biology
 MOVING FORWARD: The LCQ Deca XP, an electrospray ionization/ion trap mass spectrometer from Thermo Finnigan

The sheer number of new protein-focused mass spectrometry (MS) instruments introduced last year is a testament to the growing importance of the technique in proteomics research. Coupled to this trend is a growing need for automation of upfront sample preparation to feed these analytical machines. From the specialized academic lab to higher-capacity proteomics core facilities and drug-discovery centers, researchers look to robotics to increase walkaway time, reduce human error, and increase throughput.

Many of the protein sample preparation processes have been automated, including gel imaging, spot cutting, in-gel digestion, and MALDI sample plate loading.1 Recently introduced automated devices such as the Advion BioSciences NanoMate 100 have made throughput bottlenecks like electrospray ionization (ESI) MS more efficient and less labor-intensive,2 and improvements to existing technologies, such...

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