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TURNING UP THE HEAT
UP IN THE AIR By hermione wilson
Aerobiology Research Laboratories is to allergy sufferers what the Weather Network is to everyone else, but it also has a role to play in clinical research.
BY JEFF ELLIOTT
All facilities that handle potentially explosive dusts need to identify risk areas and better understand the role of mitigation equipment.
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A Q&A with BioGENEius Challenge winner on her innovative approach to magnetic fluid hyperthermia cancer treatment.
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DUST EXPLOSION IN THE LAB
Do the flip!
Find out how pharma is trying to solve the problem with pain.
How innovation and global competition add risk 15
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MoMentS in tiMe
Dr. Bram Rose establishes allergy and immunology as a specialty 23
Research sheds dark light on oil and gas
Aerobiologyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 33 sample sites keep tabs on our air
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Championing the Business of Biotechnology in Canada
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A pharma perspective on the opioid crisis Tasnia Nabilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s simulation model could revolutionize cancer nanotherapy
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cience communicators are losing the battle for public minds. On social media – that fanged deformity mewling in the filth of the Internet – narrative trumps fact. Pseudo-science makes the front page. Science illiterates, like anti-vaxers, win beachheads in polite society. We don’t need to worry about a pseudo-atomic bomb blowing up the world. We need to worry about something far more important: losing our ability to understand and communicate objectives truths about the natural world. The Science Coalition and the Association of American Universities said as much in a recent public form, as reported in Inside Higher Education. The association was responding to a recent Pew study that found that a majority of Republicans see higher education as a negative force in American society. These conservatives are uneasy with the consensus view of climate change, possessed by rabid anti-elitism and disenchanted with liberal attitudes (derisively called “politically correctness”) dominating American universities and colleges. If your first reaction is to laugh at Republicans, think again. This study results are deadly serious with dire consequences for U.S. colleges and universities. To win the battle for public minds – especially the portion of the public who speak through Republican politicians and their Canadian proxy – scientists need to see themselves for what they are: communicators whose function is to speak truth about the natural world. Universities need to take the mission of science communication seriously. Students studying in the sciences need to believe that every scientist is a communicator. No longer can apprenticing scientists roll their eyes and say reading and writing is for the humanities. Similarly, humanities students can no longer be allowed to roll their eyes and say science isn’t for them, or, “Math doesn’t like me.” Communication depends on both parties being able to speak the same language, and buttressing science literacy will improve science communication. Schools should deliver a full and challenging education, one that includes arts and sciences for all. Scientists working inside universities have double duty: they must challenge the scientific illiteracy among their colleagues in the humanities and social science. Pseudoscience should have no safe home inside the university. Academics who peddle it should have their research thoroughly vetted and discredited. Journals that accept payment to publish findings need to be shut down or so thoroughly ridiculed no academic with a survival instinct would pay to put their work in print. Scientists need to mount a public relations/public education campaign to discredit nonscience. They need to engage the public with passion on topics that matter, rather than demurring from public debate for fear looking partisan, anti-religious, anti-PC, elite, or whatever else. Call it missionary work. Bill Nye, equally loved as he is hated, seems to relish in the work. It’s not for everybody, and not everybody needs to achieve celebrity status. But every scientist needs to recognize that there’s a war raging between the forces of reason and unreason. If that sounds dramatic, look again at the results of the Pew study. Look at the retrograde, anti-scientific worldview of the enemies of reason – from creationists to anti-vaxers. Every scientist needs to sign up for the fight. And they better be able to communicate better than their opponents. It is good timing, then, to see Julie Payette appointed Governor General of Canada. An astronaut and engineer, Payette exemplifies the best of science. Let’s hope Payette uses her platform to raise the profile of the sciences and science communication. More than ever, our culture needs impassioned advocates to teach rational inquiry and defend a scientific world view.
Robert Price is the former Managing Editor of this publication. Follow him @pricerobertg. www.labbusinessmag.com
Canadian NEWS Soil lab teaches youth about agriculture
Fertilizer Canada has partnered with Ottawa’s Canada Agriculture and Food Museum to develop the new Soil Lab Discovery Zone. The lab, which launched on Earth Day, April 22, teaches young museum visitors about the 13 essential nutrients found in soil – including the three most important to soil health and food production: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – using real soil science instruments. The lab also highlights the chemical, physical and biological properties of soil and explains how farmers manage cropland through sustainable fertilizer use.
New research facility opening in Nunavut
Pest control company moves to protect honey bee
Abell Pest Control wants to do its part to conserve Canada’s declining honey bee population. The company will be donating $25,000 over the next five years toward a new scholarship at the University of Guelph Honey Bee Research Centre and sponsoring an introductory beekeeper training course. Abell is also building a national registry that will connect beekeepers and homeowners in an effort to address honey bee swarms. Instead of exterminating honey bee swarms that are creating a nuisance around residential homes, Abell connects homeowners with beekeepers who can safely relocate the bees. There has been a dramatic decline in the population of honey bees and other pollinators around the world as a result of habitat loss, climate change, mites and possibly agricultural pesticide use.
Eight Quebecers in delegation to international science fair
Eight young Quebecers have been chosen to represent Canada at the International Movement for Leisure Activities in Science and Technology (MILSET) in Fortaleza, Brazil. In addition to presenting their projects, the exhibitors will also take part in various cultural and scientific activities, as well as attend conferences and seminars. Some of the projects being presented by the Canadian delegation are “SUPERPLANT” by Thomas Ribeiro; “eDNA…What is it?” by Victoria Chouinard; “APOssible Key to Longevity?” by Felicia Harvey; and “Alzheimer Disease at the Pre- Aß Plaque Stage” by Maya Mikutra-Cencora. The MILSET International Science Fair will host thousands of people from more than 80 countries.
July/August 2017 Lab Business
Minister McKenna meets Dr. Evan Richardson, research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, at the new Pond Inlet Research Facility. (CNW Group/Environment and Climate Change Canada)
atherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, recently announced the opening of a new field research facility in Nunavut. The Pond Inlet Research Facility will support Environment and Climate Change Canada’s arctic wildlife programs, which includes research and monitoring of polar bears and migratory birds, as well as monitoring the impact of contaminants and climate change on arctic wildlife. The facility will also support community–based research and monitoring programs, that will incorporate Inuit traditional knowledge, as well as offering educational and employment opportunities. “Science is the foundation of maintaining healthy biodiversity in Canada,” McKenna says. “The facility will strengthen Canada's role in supporting Arctic Council initiatives while helping to address the impacts of climate change on the Arctic.” The Pond Inlet Research Facility is located on Baffin Island in the Qikiqtani Region of Nunavut, which is internationally recognized for its diverse ecosystem. Located in Eclipse Sound, near the ...the marine waters of this eastern end of the Northwest region are well recognized as Passage, the marine waters of a circumpolar biodiversity hot this region are well recognized spot, and they were recently as a circumpolar biodiversity hot spot, and they were recentdesignated as part of the ly designated as part of the Lancaster Sound National Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area. Marine Conservation Area. The area is also a region with increasing marine transportation and resource development. New research and monitoring will help ensure the health of the area for future generations.
New method to study irradiated graphite developed in UK
A recently published paper by scientists from the University of Manchester and Diamond Light Source, presented at the 2016 X-Ray Microscopy Conference, has led to a new way of studying irradiated graphite. The scientists teamed up with Deben, a UK precision engineering company, to develop a new mechanical testing stage. This stage enables the simultaneous heating and compression of irradiated graphite during synchrotron microtomographic imaging.
This experiment was the first to involve simultaneous heating and mechanical loading of radioactive samples at Diamond Light Source, and represented the first study of radioactive materials at the DiamondManchester Imaging Branchline I13-2. According to the paper, irradiated graphite from a working reactor has been studied for the first time by x-ray microtomography with in-situ heating and compression. This experiment was the first to involve simultaneous heating and mechanical loading of radioactive samples at Diamond Light Source, and represented the first study of radioactive materials at the Diamond-Manchester Imaging Branchline I13-2. Irradiated graphite was simultaneously compressed to 450N in a Deben 10kN Open-Frame Rig and heated to 300 C with dual focused infrared lamps. During heating and compression, samples were simultaneously rotated and imaged with polychromatic x-rays. “The resulting microtomograms are being studied via digital volume correlation (DVC) to provide insights into how thermal expansion coefficients and microstructure are affected by irradiation history, load and heat,” says Andrew Bodey, lead author. “Such information will be key to improving the accuracy of graphite degradation models which inform safety margins at power stations.”
3-D Imaging helps restore ancient wind instruments
A set of 13 sixteenth-century Italian wind instruments, discovered in the library of the Sacred Convent of Assisi, Italy, were subjected to non-invasive and non-destructive x-ray and neutron beam tomography and radiography imaging at the Paul Scherrer Institute’s SINQ (Swiss Spallation Neutron Source) in Switzerland. An Andor iKon-L CCD camera and scintillator captured the signals in both neutron and x-ray set-ups to characterize and model the original construction and internal structure of the instruments, and catalogue the damage and deterioration wrought by the passage of time. The resulting intensely detailed 3-D models of the composite wood, metal and leather structures provided valuable information about the construction methods of the original instrument makers and were used to guide their restoration in Basel, Switzerland.
CRISPR gene editing technique used to track RNA
In a 2016 study, University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers repurposed the technique to track RNA in live cells in a method called RNA-targeting Cas9 (RCas9). In a new study, published August 10 in Cell, the team takes RCas9 a step further: they use the technique to correct molecular mistakes that lead to microsatellite repeat expansion diseases, which include myotonic dystrophy types 1 and 2, the most common form of hereditary ALS, and Huntington's disease. Microsatellite repeat expansion diseases arise because there are errant repeats in RNA sequences that are toxic to the cell, in part because they prevent production of crucial proteins. These repetitive RNAs accumulate in the nucleus or cytoplasm of cells, forming dense knots, called foci. The researchers used RCas9 to eliminate the problem-causing RNAs associated with microsatellite repeat expansion diseases in patient-derived cells and cellular models of the diseases in the laboratory.
Big data analysis techniques used to find new mineral deposits
Applying big data analysis to mineralogy offers a way to predict minerals missing from those known to science, as well as where to find new deposits, according to a groundbreaking study. In a paper to be published in American Mineralogist, scientists report the first application to mineralogy of network theory (best known for analysis of 0000the spread of disease, terrorist networks, or Facebook connections). The results, the scientists say, could present a potential way to reveal mineral diversity and distribution worldwide, their evolution through deep time, new trends, and new deposits of valuable minerals such as gold or copper.
By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington
Research sheds light on dark corner of B.C.'s oil and gas industry
Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Ian Hanington is Senior Editor, David Suzuki Foundation. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.
e’ve long known extracting oil and gas comes with negative consequences, and rapid expansion of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, increases the problems and adds new ones – excessive water use and contamination, earthquakes, destruction of habitat and agricultural lands and methane emissions among them. As fossil fuel reserves become depleted, thanks to our voracious and wasteful habits, extraction becomes more extreme and difficult. Oilsands mining, deepsea drilling and fracking are employed because easily accessible supplies are becoming increasingly scarce. The costs and consequences are even higher than with conventional sources and methods. Fracking involves drilling deep into the earth, and injecting a high-pressure stream of water, sand and chemicals to break apart shale and release gas or oil. In British Columbia, politicians tout liquefied natural gas as an economic panacea, a product we can export around the world to create jobs and prosperity at home. More than 80 per cent of B.C.’s natural gas is fracked, and as fracking increases, the percentage rises. Of the many problems with the industry, methane emissions from fracked and conventional operations are among the most serious. Methane is at least 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas over the short term. Researchers estimate it’s responsible for 25 per cent of already observed climatic changes. One difference between methane and CO2 : Methane remains in the atmosphere for a shorter time — around a decade, compared to many decades or centuries for CO2 . Methane’s relatively short lifespan means reducing the amount entering the atmosphere will have major and rapid results. Cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector is one of the cheapest, most effective ways to address climate
July/August 2017 Lab Business
change. The technology to do so already exists. It’s absurd that the industry is leaking the very resource it wants to sell. Methane comes from a number of sources, including animal agriculture and natural emissions. Global warming itself means methane once trapped in frozen ground or ice is escaping into the air. The oil and gas industry is one of the major emitters. A field study by the David Suzuki Foundation and St. Francis Xavier University found methane pollution from B.C.’s oil and gas industry is at least 2.5 times higher than B.C. government estimates. In 2015 and 2016, Foundation researchers joined St. Francis Xavier University’s Flux Lab under the supervision of David Risk, an expert in measurement, detection and repair of fugitive emissions. Using gas-detection instruments mounted on a “sniffer truck,” they travelled more than 8,000 km in northeastern B.C. They found methane emissions from B.C.’s Montney region alone are greater than what the provincial government has estimated for the entire industry! (Montney represents about 55 per cent of B.C.’s oil and gas production.) David Suzuki Foundation senior scientist John Werring followed up on and corroborated that research by measuring point-source methane emissions from more than 170 oil and gas sites. The research, available in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, found Montney operations leak and intentionally release more than 111,800 tonnes of methane into the air annually – equivalent to burning more than 4.5 million tonnes of coal or putting more than two million cars on the road. Half of all well and processing sites in the region are releasing methane. This research shows that the oil and gas sector is the largest source of climate pollution in B.C., surpassing commercial transportation – and it contradicts claims that natural gas or LNG is a clean fuel or that it’s useful to help us transition from other fossil fuels. Given these results and other studies - including one in Alberta that found the amount of methane leaking from Alberta operations in one year could heat 200,000 homes – it’s time for all levels of government to get industrial methane emissions under control. Beyond existing commitments to reduce methane emissions by 45 per cent, governments must work to eliminate them from this sector by 2030, with strong regulations, monitoring and oversight. We need better leak detection and repair, improved reporting and enforcement, and methods to capture emissions rather than burning them. Climate change is a serious issue, and methane emissions are a significant contributor. Getting them under control is a quick, cost-effective way to help address the problem. What’s stopping us? LB
the Heat A Canadian high school student’s work to optimize cancer nanotherapy wins her international acclaim
ixteen-year-old Tasnia Nabil of Windsor, ON, was recently named one of two runners-up in the International BioGENEius Challenge that took place at BIO 2017 in June in San Diego. The Vincent Massey Secondary School student was one of the only Canadians to make it to that level of the competition. The project, “A Novel Computational Approach to Advance Ferromagnetic NanoTherapy for Cancer”, had previously won Nabil the Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada in May and propelled her to the international competition. LAB Business spoke to her about what this means and how she plans to change the way cancer is treated.
Can you explain your project to me?
My project deals with this cancer therapy called magnetic fluid hyperthermia. Magnetic nanoparticles are injected into a tumour where they generate heat to destroy cancer cells but do not affect healthy cells. It’s a very promising therapy as it is minimally invasive and it has little to no side effects. The only reason why it’s still not being used today is because of the lack of research into the complex thermometry behind it. We do not know how to optimize the nanoparticle heat generation in the tumour. My solution to this is a novel computational approach, which I call Ferromagnetic NanoTherapy and by using an ANYSYSbased simulation model and an interactive Python-based mathematical model I created, I am able to provide a powerful visualization tool where the physician can just plug in some numbers and get out the required parameters for an optimized treatment.
Take ME through how you came to that conclusion and what work you had to do to get there.
A few years ago, I started observing the magnetic field strength properties and I created a basic mathematical
PROFILE model and a prototype of what the machine would have to be to carry out this therapy. Then the next year (2016), I contacted a lab and I was able to test my idea on cancer cells, specifically breast cancer cells, and I found that in under an hour I was able to eliminate 80 per cent of the cancer cells. But that was done in a test tube and obviously not all tumours are in test tubes, so I decided I wanted to do this in the body, but I couldn’t really do it in the body so I decided to use a computer to simulate that instead, to see how it works.
What lab was it that you contacted?
The London Health Sciences Centre in London, ON.
Did you spend any time working there?
Yes I did.
What was that like?
It was really amazing! I didn’t really expect to be able to work with such a high level researcher, because I was working with Dr. Alison Allan (Senior Oncology Scientist). Being a 15-year-old working in a real, professional lab was absolutely mind-blowing and everyone there was super supportive.
What sort of things did you do at the LHSC lab?
Just cancer cell testing. They would give me the cancer cells, I would use my prototype to see if it works, and then spend the entire day there at the lab.
What sort of lab equipment were you using?
Other than my equipment, there was obviously the microscope. I also used a hemocytometer to count the dead and live cancer cells with trypan blue [solution].
When you say your Equipment, what was that?
It was my actual machine that I was using. The nanoparticles, I would inject those into the cancer cell mixture and then there was an external magnetic field that was alternating. So that’s what oscillates the nanoparticles and that creates heat. To create the magnetic field I had some other machinery like a function generator and an amplifier to control the frequency and current, and my solenoid which was creating the magnetic field itself.
What new skills did you learn over the course of this project?
The biggest skills I think I learned through the entire research process were patience and discipline. It really takes someone [special] to be able to spend day and night – you’re not going to get something immediately – but going through different research papers, going through different procedures, coming up with different procedures. Sometimes they don’t work, but having to overcome that and persevere through the entire process, that really helped me become a better person, I think.
Did this experience inspire you to pursue a career in research science in the future?
Definitely! At this point I’ve become addicted to research so I don’t think I’m going to let it go anytime soon.
You were at the BIO International Convention in San Diego this year. What was that like?
The room was huge and it was filled with companies and officials and pharmacists and researchers from across the globe, in one room, sharing their ideas, and thinking that I get to be there talking to them – it was mind-blowing.
Did you meet any particularly interesting people?
I was actually at the Canada Pavilion and I got to meet the Minister of Science and Innovation of Ontario [Reza Moridi], I got to meet some people from the Ministry of Alberta and the University of Alberta, and talking to them and them being interested in my idea – I didn’t expect that.
What’s next for you? Are you going to continue with the project or move on to something else?
I still have another year of high school left, so that’s probably number one on my to-do list, but I definitely plan to continue with this research because I believe that one day this could help someone and I really want to be the person bringing it to clinical trials and seeing it help someone with cancer. LB
March/April 2017 Lab Business
It was really amazing! I didn’t really expect to be able to work with such a high level researcher, because I was working with Dr. Alison Allan (SENIOR oNCOLOGY sCIENTIST). Being a 15-yearold working in a real, professional lab was absolutely mind-blowing and everyone there was super supportive. – Tasnia Nabil
Up In The Air Research lab keeps allergy sufferers informed during pollen season
f you have ever perused the pollen report on the Weather Network website, you’ll see a note beside the forecast which reads, “Data provided by Aerobiology Research.” That would be Aerobiology Research Laboratories, a research centre solely dedicated to taking samples of the air in order to predict pollen levels in a particular area. The lab also produces a report for Reactine’s Canadian website. “If you talk to an allergist, they’ll generally say that the biggest thing you can do to minimize the effects of allergens is to avoid them,” says Daniel Coates, Director of Marketing and Business Development. “By providing data [about allergens] we provide allergy sufferers, and asthma sufferers, with the forecasts so that they can avoid the triggers that would generally set off [their symptoms].”
July/August 2017 Lab Business
Our samplers are designed and engineered and produced by us, the GRIPST2009 and the GRIPS-99M – Daniel Coates, Director, Marketing and Business Development
July/August 2017 Lab Business
Testing the air Aerobiology is based in Ottawa, but it maintains 33 sampling sites throughout Canada. Some of the larger locations, like Toronto and Vancouver, have multiple sampling sites, whereas smaller sites in Atlantic Canada have one or two. The data is representative of what is occurring in the air within a 50-mile radius. “Our samplers are designed and engineered and produced by us, the GRIPST2009 and the GRIPS-99M,” Coates says. “Our forecasts are over 80 per cent accurate when you compare it to actual data from that same site on the same day. We are extremely accurate in the data we supply to the public.” As Dawn Jurgens, Director of Operations and Quality Management, explains, the key element of the Aerobiology samplers is small plastic rods. “There’s a little motor inside the box that houses all the electrical components and things. The rotor spins the shaft and then it has small plastic rods that are coated in silicone. When it’s spinning the rods are extended, and as they impact particles in the air, the particles stick in the silicone. When it stops spinning, the little rods retract inside the sampling head.” Jurgens says the samplers are run on a 10 per cent duty cycle; they spin for one minute, and then stop for nine minutes. This cycle continues for a 24-hour period, after which the rods are collected – two rods per sampler – and sent back to the lab in Ottawa where they are mounted on special slide adapters and analyzed under microscope.
Lab PROFILE Lab technicians can sample for pollen, to which they apply a basic stain to make them visible, and fungal spores. “Fungal spores are much smaller than pollen is, so we have to look at that at a much smaller magnification because some of [the spores] are only a couple of microns big,” Jurgens says. “Some of the bigger pollens are over 100-150 microns.” When it comes to identifying what sort of pollen is in the air, Jurgens says the lab can pinpoint the genus and sometimes the family, but not the species. “Pine, for example, is one of the ones we can identify to the family level, meaning that it’s all pine, or spruce [which is] part of the same family,” she says. “The pollen itself doesn’t have any morphological differences that can be found microscopically, and they all have similar allergenicity anyways. It’s pretty much the highest identification we can get looking at them under a microscope. You would have to do something like DNA testing in order to get higher identifications on them.”
Pharmaceutical companies rely on our data because they know it’s accurate and current... We get a lot of business there – Daniel Coates, Director, Marketing and Business Development
Contributing to research The data Aerobiology collects doesn’t just benefit Canadian allergy sufferers; it is highly sought after by researchers and pharmaceutical companies. “Pharmaceutical companies rely on our data because they know it’s accurate and current,” Coates says. “We get a lot of business there.” Although the lab itself does not conduct clinical research, it participates in clinical trials all across Canada and the U.S. by sending out its self-designed sampling equipment to different trial sites and analyzing the pollen data that researchers send back. The results of the analysis are then supplied to the sponsors of the clinical trial. The work of the Aerobiology lab has also appeared in a number of scientific publications and peer reviewed journals in Canada and the U.S. and although the lab’s analysis work is currently focused in Canada, it has participated in research and clinical trials in other countries. Jurgens says Aerobiology is looking to expand its infrastructure in order to provide forecasting in other countries. Aerobiology’s sample analysis work primarily takes place in the summer, when the pollen levels are at their highest. During pollen season, samples come in weekly from each of the 33 sampling sites, equalling about 231 samples a week that technicians must analyze, Jurgens says. Aerobiology is working on developing an automated microscope imaging system that will negate the need for physical samples to be sent to its main office. “We have IT personnel working on the computer software aspect of it, to get high enough resolution images that we can image them automatically and just analyze the images on the computer screens itself, rather than having to do it in the microscope,” Jurgens says. In the winter, Aerobiology requests all equipment be sent back to its main site in Ottawa for servicing, in preparation for the next pollen season. “Most of the sales of the
sampling equipment occur in the spring because people are getting ready to start their pollen season and start collecting for things like university research, agricultural research, and clinical trials,” Jurgens says. “All those sort of things are gearing up in late winter/early spring.” The lab also reserves a few sampling sites for analysis during the winter, where data is collected in order to build up the database of a new site, rather than being used in forecasting. A sampling site needs at least five years of data before it can start producing accurate forecasts. “Some of the key ingredients to our forecasting being so accurate are the historical data that we have, as well as current data that we get, and weather,” Coates says. “In a lot of other countries they don’t have this system and this science down, and so we’re making waves to take our very successful system into other countries, mainly on this continent.” Aerobiology Research Laboratories knows what its good at and sticks to its focus. It leaves the analyzing of things like pollution levels to others. “There are already automated sampling systems looking at particulate matter and airborne contaminants that don’t require the amount of human resources that [our work] requires, so I don’t think that’s something we’re going to get into at all,” Jurgens says. What Aerobiology does, it does well and its work is relied upon by industry, researchers and regular citizens alike. LB
July/August 2017 Lab Business
The Next Phase in Industrial Dust Explosion Protection story by
Identifying potential risk areas for dust explosions in laboratories, the spotlight turns now to mitigation equipment
or labs that manufacture, process, blend, convey, repackage, generate or handle items that could be categorized as combustible dusts or particulate solids, the responsibility for conducting a dust hazard analysis is strictly on owners and operators of such facilities. Explosions can result from an ignition of a combustible gas, mist or dust when mixed with air during processing, handling or storage operations. A rapid rise in pressure occurs in the containing structure, and if it is not of adequate strength to withstand the pressure, extensive damage and injury to personnel can occur. After a string of incidents in the U.S. in the early 2000s, governing organizations everywhere began stepping up requirements. Many of the new standards consolidated best engineering practices and provided reference to all existing combustible dust standards that apply to any facility that handles potentially explosive dusts. While a significant move in the right direction, these steps essentially require owners and operators of at-risk facilities to confront and address an issue that many may not fully understand in terms of both the potential for such an event and what steps must be taken to mitigate those risks. Many standards outline requirements that can range from improved housekeeping to installing dust-collection equipment and offering protective equipment for personnel. In addition, protection or hazard mitigation devices may also be required. Because these typically represent some capital expenditure, many owners and operators are seeking out information on the available technologies on the market.
Explosion Protection Devices
To protect process equipment and personnel, a hybrid of technical measures is often required. Among the options are passive devices like vents or containment systems along with active devices such as explosion suppression or spark detection and extinguishing systems. In addition, chemical or mechanical isolation devices are required to protect connected equipment and piping from propagating to a secondary event, which can often be more dangerous and destructive than the initial event.
During the early stages of a dust or gas explosion, explosion vents open rapidly at a predetermined burst pressure, allowing the combustion process to escape to the atmosphere and limiting the pressure generated inside the process equipment to calculated safe limits. Venting is the most popular and widely adopted protection mechanism, in part because it is economical and requires little attention or maintenance once installed. Geof Brazier, President of BS&B Pressure Safety
July/August 2017 Lab Business
Management, a manufacturer of a broad range of dust explosion prevention and protection technologies explains that, “a single piece of equipment might require multiple vents according to design calculations that assess both dust reactivity and the volume as well as shape of the equipment to be protected.” For decades, explosion vents have traditionally been designed using a “composite” approach that sandwiches plastic film between more resistant stainless steel sheets with holes, or slots, cut into it. These vents are designed to “open” at typically 1 to 1.5 PSI set pressure, a result of the slot and hole pattern placed into the sheet metal. Over time, however, this type of vent is prone to tears in the plastic film, which is the seal between the process conditions and the atmosphere. With this type of technology, the holes and slots in the stainless steel sheets can admit particulates and debris over time. In addition to being unsanitary, particularly for food processors, the build-up can eventually affect the functionality of the vent. “A vent that becomes heavier in weight due to build-up will open slowly and less efficiently, and ultimately the pressure in the equipment will be higher than expected which is a safety concern,” explains Brazier. In 1990, BS&B Systems patented the first single-section explosion vent, comprised of a solitary sheet of stainless steel
A typical suppression system consists of sensors and several explosion suppression “cannons,” which propel an extinguishing agent, such as sodium bicarbonate, into the process equipment. Nitrogen is often used to provide the motive power.
in a domed configuration. Perforations around the perimeter to aid opening at the desired low set pressure are protected with gasket materials.
The single-section domed design produces a vent that is more robust, lighter in weight and also largely eliminates the potential for build-up or contamination.
In 2010, the company improved on the design by altering the shape of the dome to a unique compound geometry that delivers even greater rigidity for high vacuum or vibration applications. Despite its popularity, explosion vents will not work for every application. With venting, the combustion process will release a large ball of flame into the atmosphere that might be 10 times the size of the protected equipment for a few milliseconds. While this might be an acceptable consequence for equipment that is outdoors at a remote location, for applications within most laboratories it could endanger personnel or equipment, and even lead to a secondary explosion external to the protected equipment. In cases where a flameball must be avoided, flame arrestors can be deployed. These devices are designed to absorb the pressure wave, flame and at least some of the dust that would normally be ejected by a vented explosion. The 3-D flame arrestors applied downstream of explosion
vents are heavy and when installed directly on top of a vent damage can result. To address this concern, companies like BS&B Pressure Safety Management provide a flameless system designed with the vent installed inside the flame arrestor. In doing so, the heavier flame arrestor is mechanically mounted directly to the equipment, reducing the weight load transmitted through the more sensitive vent and eliminating the risk of damaging the vent. It also serves the dual purpose of allowing for easy inspection of the vent and arrestor while installed. NFPA Standards require periodic inspection of explosion safety equipment.
For processes where an explosion would ideally be prevented altogether, suppression systems are the best alternative. Explosion suppression equipment detects a dust explosion in the first milliseconds of the event and then signals extinguishing modules to release a flame quenching medium into the process equipment. This effectively stops the explosion in its infancy and only low pressure is produced that is safe for the protected equipment. “Suppression can be preferable for indoor equipment, simply because the explosion doesn’t really propagate; it starts, but it never evolves into a full blown event,” says Brazier.
For a 24/7 process, a suppression system can be very desirable, because the speed of clean up and refit allows for a quick return to production. “If you use venting or flameless venting, you are allowing the explosion to fully develop in process equipment, so you have cleanup to deal with, you may have fire-related damages and other consequences that take time to get the process back into operation,” adds Brazier. A typical suppression system consists of sensors and several explosion suppression “cannons,” which propel an extinguishing agent, such as sodium bicarbonate, into the process equipment. Nitrogen is often used to provide the motive power. Although some available systems combine nitrogen and extinguishing agent in a single canister, this means the cannon must be oriented vertically downward to discharge properly. If not, the extinguishing powder could be left behind. In the BS&B suppression system the nitrogen and extinguishing chemical are kept separate until the instant of activation. For this reason, discharge cannons can be installed facing vertically down, horizontal, or even upwards. For installation purposes, this provides tremendous flexibility for placing cannons in the ideal location. Separating the extinguishing agent and providing it in an easily replaced canister also means that on-site personnel can refit the system in case of an event. This can be a significant advantage given that some systems require a service technician to travel to the facility to reset the system.
To “contain” an explosion, process equipment is built strong enough to resist the pressures generated by the combustion occurring inside a sealed container. With this type of system, there is a high cost of construction since the design pressure has to be typically over 100 psig, and sometimes over 150 psig, which is far above the normal, required operating pressure conditions of the equipment. As a consequence, containment is only economically viable for processes that are small volumes and/or high added value, such as some pharmaceutical manufacturing and for industries handling toxic materials that cannot be released to the environment. In this type of system, the isolation devices play a critical role in preventing damage to connected equipment and piping. For this, fast activating knife gate or pinch valve device can be used, as well as chemical isolation systems. With containment systems, however, isolation equip-
July/August 2017 Lab Business
Explosion suppression equipment detects a dust explosion in the first miliseconds of the event and then signals extinguishing modules to release a flame quenching medium into the process equipment. ment must also be able to withstand greater pressures, up to 150 psig, unlike similar equipment required with vents or suppression devices that must survive only 3-10 psig. Regardless of the type and combination of equipment installed, the appropriate solution for each application is a hands-on, collaborative endeavour. “There is always more than one way to achieve combustible dust safety,” says Brazier. “The expertise is in reviewing each option for a particular industrial process and arriving at a combination of technologies that is technically effective, as well as cost effective in meeting the owner/operator’s responsibilities.” LB Jeff Elliott is a Torrance, CA-based technical writer. He has researched and written about industrial technologies and issues for the past 20 years.
Lab WARE New VITgrip laboratory bottles
BrandTech recently introduced VITgrip laboratory bottles from VITLAB. VITgrip bottles are optimized for storage and sample collection. They are built with an ergonomic slim waist to aid in handling, double-sided graduations for improved grip and visibility, and tamper-evident screw caps for safe storage. The bottle thread and screw cap feature a leak-proof design and are both made of PP which make them break-resistant and food-safe. Available in sizes from 125ml to 2000ml. www.BrandTech.com
Tecan Launches New Range of Clear Disposable Tips
Tecan has introduced a selection of clear Liquid Handling (LiHa) disposable tips, creating a one-stop shop for all your disposable tip needs. The new tips are intended for use with Air LiHa, Air FCA and Cavro ADP pipetting options, providing cost-effective, verified performance for applications that do not require capacitive liquid level detection (cLLD). Tecan’s complete range of disposable tips is designed, manufactured and tested specifically for Tecan liquid handling options, helping to ensure reliable results, time after time. Suitable for a variety of applications, these non-conductive clear tips are especially useful for setting up methods where users can see into the tip. The newly developed range includes 50 μl tips – available in Tecan Pure – and 200 and 1,000 μl tips – currently available in Tecan Standard and soon in Tecan Pure – all with or without filters. www.tecan.com/clear-tips
Lightweight Camera Captures Images in Tight Spaces
Vicon, the motion capture technology specialist for the engineering, entertainment and life science industries, announced the availability of a new camera – Vertex. Integrating seamlessly with Vicon’s existing cameras ranges Vantage and Vero, the new camera is compact, lightweight and easily mounted – making it ideal for tracking in small and complex environments. In response to customer demand, Vertex boasts a smaller and more flexible design and wide angle field of view, allowing it to capture significant volumes in very tight spaces. With an industry-leading 1.3 megapixel camera, petite design and two-meter flexible cable, Vertex harnesses these features to perform inconspicuously in virtual spaces. Its unobtrusive design and infra-red strobes mean that subjects are often not aware of the camera and continue to behave naturally. Vertex gives customers the ability to create bespoke and robust mounting solutions. Together with this lightweight build the amount of vibration felt by the cameras is reduced which means they require less calibration – resulting in quicker set-up times. www.vicon.com/motion-capture/lifesciences
Undercounter Refrigerators Provide Sustainable Cold Storage
Clinical and laboratory personnel with the need to store vaccines, pharmaceuticals and other molecular or biological samples safely can benefit from a new series of lab-grade undercounter refrigerators that are designed to minimize energy usage and noise, while maintaining high levels of performance and maximizing storage capacity. The Thermo Scientific TSX505 Series undercounter refrigerators are the only current lab-grade undercounter refrigerators using thermoelectric devices in place of compressor technology for variable speed control. They regulate their internal temperatures more effectively to provide ideal storage conditions for the most demanding applications. Powered by compressor-free V-Drive technology, featuring synchronized temperature management (STeM), internal conditions are actively monitored and maintained at the desired temperature. Data logging capabilities are easily enabled through a USB port, allowing users to monitor storage conditions in a timely and efficient manner. thermofisher.com/aacc2017
Solenoid-driven Liquid Transfer Pump Offers Calibrated Pump-to-Pump Repeatability
KNF has introduced a new solenoiddriven FL 10 diaphragm pump for OEM customers. With a nominal liquid flow rate of 100 mL/min, FL 10 features bi-directional flowtightness without additional check valves, IP 65 protection, simple linear flow rate adjustment, a maintenance-free expected lifetime of 10,000h, and other key cost-saving attributes. The FL 10 pump uses spring tension in the linear solenoid drive to keep it flow-tight in both directions when turned off, making additional check valves unnecessary and helping to reduce costs. Built for operation in demanding environments such as wet or dusty areas, the pump’s IP 65 protection class reduces the need for additional protection in the customer’s system. Sealing between the pump housing and the linear drive ensures failsafe operation, so that in case of a ruptured diaphragm, liquid is kept away from other areas of the system. Laser-welded head parts keep the pump leak-free. www.knfusa.com/fl10
Lab WARE Modular Membrane Chromatography Solution Available for Large-scale Applications
Sartorius Stedim Biotech (SSB) has expanded its range of singleuse membrane chromatography solutions with Sartobind Cassettes. This convenient, pod-like modular system has been developed for commercial applications in both capture and polishing. New Sartobind cassettes offer the same flow path, bed heights (4 and 8 mm) and void volume ratios as Sartobind capsules, and are compatible with Q, S, STIC PA and phenyl ligands. The new design goes beyond the previous 5 L size limitation for capsule formats, expanding the boundaries of membrane chromatography. Multiple cassettes, each with 0.8 L or 1.6 L membrane volume, can be set up in three different stainless steel holders resulting in maximum membrane volumes of 20, 50 or 100 L, respectively. Data demonstrates direct scalability from the 3 mL Sartobind nano capsule to 20.8 L (13 cassettes) in the Pilot Filter Holder. Pressure-flow performance and the shape of breakthrough curves are identical to the smaller capsule sizes, independent of the number of cassettes used. Set up can be accomplished within minutes, even at manufacturing scale, whether for capture applications or for flow-through removal of process contaminants. The capture of large proteins such as viruses and virus-like particles (VLPs), protein conjugates and blood factors plays a key role in modern bioprocessing. The unique Sartobind cassette system now enables large-scale bind-and-elute membrane chromatography for such targets. www.sartorius.com/sartorius/en/ EUR/filtration-and-purification/ membrane-chromatography
NEW HPLC COLUMN CHILLER/HEATER IDEAL FOR BIOMEDICAL SAMPLES AT OR BELOW ROOM TEMPERATURES
Torrey Pines Scientific, Inc. announced its new EchoTherm Model CO50 Programmable HPLC Column Chiller/Heater. It is ideal for chiral and biomedical chromatography where below ambient temperatures help preserve bioactivity. It can be used for stabilizing column temperatures from day to day at or near room temperatures for repeatable results. It has a temperature range from 4 C to 100 C readable and settable to 0.1 C. The PID control software regulates temperatures to ±0.2 C, even at ambient. The CO50 has a Stable Temperature LED that illuminates when the target temperature is stable to within ±0.2 C. The Peltier-based CO50 has a 5-program memory of 10 steps per program and the ability to repeat any program from 1 to 99 times automatically. The CO50 holds columns up to 30cm long by1/4” or 3/8” diameter in mounting clips provided. Larger diameter columns can be used by removing the column clips that hold the smaller columns. The CO50 features RS232 I/O port for controlling the unit by a chromatograph, for programming gradients, and for data collection. www.torreypinesscientific.com
Potentiometric Titrator Determines TAN/TBN in Oils, Plus P and M for Alkalinity
JM Science offers the AQUACOUNTER COM-300A Potentiometric Titrator; an easyto-use, highly reliable titrator that provides a wealth of features and includes free download software and RS-232 cable to connect to the customer’s computer. The COM300A performs pH, acid/base, complexometric, redox, Karl Fischer, photometric, non-aqueous titrations and ISE (Ion-Selective Electrode) measurements. The unit can also determine TAN/TBN (total acid/total base) in oils and P and M alkalinity. Stores up to 50 results in memory or download results to a laptop or desktop PC. Balance and computer interfaces are standard for GLP (good lab practice) and ISO documentation. Many options and additional features make the COM-300A the total solution for all of your titration needs. An optional volumetric Karl Fischer Kit add-on is available, which enhances flexibility in the use of this titrator for moisture determination. The software is already built-in, just add the hardware kit and start measuring moisture in the range from 100ppm to 100%. www.jmscience.com
LIST OF ADVERTISERS & WEBSITES Canadian Food Business
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July/August 2017 Lab Business
Moments in time
For Food Allergies? I
n October 2016, a study that offers a possible cure for food allergies was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan developed an immunotherapy technique that led to an almost complete reversal in the allergic response to peanut and egg white proteins in food-allergic mice. The technique involved generating a type of naturally occurring immune cell that sends a signal to reverse the hyperimmune response present in allergic reactions. That signal triggers a shut-off in reactive cells further along the allergic pathway. The next step will be to test this new allergy treatment in a human trial, and it is thought that the technique could be used to treat other related conditions like asthma, or autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. LB
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