Emerging Separation Technologies 2019 – with RSC
Burlington House, 28th March 2019

Salma I Yarima,
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Sunderland, Sunderland SR1 3SD

I am a current PHD research student at the University of Sunderland. My research interest is in the area of method development in separation science, looking into how modern LC technology can be introduced into quality control in drug analysis. The work I did towards my MSc in my research project really brought home to me the extent to which the latest developments in LC needn’t be confined to the research lab and can be adapted to make a massive difference to routine QC work. I was glad to have the opportunity to pursue this further as a research student, especially in that it also affords me, courtesy of a ChromSoc student bursary, the privilege to attend exciting external symposia such as this “Emerging Separation Technologies” one on March 28th.  In principle some of the topics covered in the meeting were beyond the scope of my research area on modern technology that can be readily adapted for use in the QC environment. I nonetheless felt it was important to attend to maintain an awareness of what was happening at the ‘cutting edges’. It was perceived as being very much a part of my continuing professional and technical development.

I heard about the symposium through email from the ChromSoc; which I often receive as a student member. Although this is not the first symposium I have attended, this is the first time that I attended one that touched basically new areas on separation science to me that provided me with insight of some of the very latest methods being used to try to revolutionise  peak capacity and throughput for complex samples, while still maintaining chromatography quality standards. Most importantly the bursary from ChromSoc gave me an amazing opportunity to be part of a gathering of people with vast knowledge in the field especially for me as a first year PhD student. I am excited to seeing my dream unfold from my big step move to Sunderland to enhance my chances of an academic career in industry-related pharmaceutical science (hence my previous interest in MSc Drug Discovery and Development) to the uplifting opportunities provided to me by ChromSoc.

Papers were presented where they have used different methods to separate from simple to complex compounds. Amongst these all caught my interest even those that were less relevant to my research work, but a few that resonated with me and caught my attention. One was the opening presentation by Prof. Peter Schoemakers (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands) on the ‘Current status and novel developments in multi-dimensional chromatography: separation challenges posed by complex samples’. This further gave me a better understanding of the variables which influence performance that could involve in the separation of compounds or a mixture that are extremely similar and also how sometimes manipulating selectivity alone is not enough, especially when he was talking about comprehensive two-dimensional separations as an attractive alternative to the conventional one-dimensional separation. Also, he went further to discuss on spatial LC to developments in the area of spatial three-dimensional LC (3D-LC). Spatial 3D-Lc as he described can be used to separate complex compounds where analytes are separated in ‘space’ based on their x-y coordinates. As an alternative to a column-based system, analytes are separated by their migration to different positions in a three-dimensional separation body. He proposed this method as a promising method that will enhance peak capacities and be useful when dealing with “truly complex” samples.

Another presentation of interest to me was by Dr. Timothy Cross, on ‘New Paradigms in Liquid Chromatography Separation Efficiency’ (Thermo Fisher Scientific, Hemel Hempstead, UK). He discussed how liquid chromatography productivity has improved with the use of dual LC which is part of recent innovations in UHPLC technology allowing up to three workflows on one system. He went on to discuss its advantages and also demonstrated how it gave rise to more efficient workflows. Although I am currently not using uHPLC nor 2D-LC, I could see that it would be interesting to see how these dual LC approaches can be developed and improved for use in smaller QC labs in the, hopefully, near future.

Another technique that I am currently not using is super-critical fluid chromatography (SFC). However Shaun Pritchard (Agilent Technologies) discussed how SFC can be made a more practical prospect by showing how the use of a slow feed mode of injection made it easier for SFC to accommodate large injection volumes and/or a range of different sample solvents. SFC screening of plant extracts is something I might progress to later in my research programme.
A paper presented by Dr Eivor Ornskov ‘Novel separation methods of polynucleotides’ highlighted on the issue of ion-pair-reverse liquid chromatography and importance of EDTA on columns when introduced to mobile phase can enhance separation and peak shape. I found it intriguing to see that ion-pair LC method was making a revival for large biomolecules, (also mentioned by a fellow AstraZeneca speaker). This would have been of interest to a colleague of mine who is also trying to revive ion-pair LC, albeit in the more traditional sense and working on small molecules.

I learnt a thing or two from my fellow research students who were presenting while still working on their PhD. Noor Abdulhussain who has a MSc degree in Analytical Chemistry and currently a PHD student in the Separation Technology for A Million Peaks (STAMP) project, made a presentation on ‘Multi-dimensional Separations in 3D-printed devices’ where she eloquently described the different stages of using both isoelectric focusing (IEF) and reversed phase liquid chromatography (RPLC) as first and second dimension to achieve separation in protein mixture using devices that are electro-driven.

I also had the opportunity of interacting with other presenters during the lunch-break and getting to know of the area of research. Another interesting interaction occurred with different companies that displayed their products such as Agilent Technologies, Hichrom, ACE. They took the time to explain their latest, modern upgraded range of equipment developed to enhance effectiveness. This saves time without jeopardising sensitivity and robustness. I also enjoyed discussions with the people from Hichrom on alternatives to C18 columns especially in resolving back pressure during analysis and they also provided booklets for further reading. There were also other complimentary literature provided which were of interest and contained demonstrations and representations of modern column chromatography and a few articles from vendors, contained a useful overview on modern column technology. In the latter, there seemed to be a broader, more philosophical take on analysis.

I want to once again thank ChromSoc for offering me the bursary that gave me this amazing experience on  these new promising area  of ‘Emerging Separation Technologies 2019’and I also want to say a big thank you to Adrian Clarke, and Karen Rome who kept me informed and on-track through the bursary application process.