The project deadline is approaching. Your promising new compound is almost fully characterized. In the lab a brand new UHPLC is running but no matter what you do, it seems to be impossible to separate these two diastereomers that keep you from finalizing the report. Have you ever encountered a separation problem that was difficult and time-consuming to solve like this? Although recent developments in separation technologies save costs and time, method development remains tedious work. Additionally, the increasing complexity of samples vastly raises the requirements for specific separation problems. Several considerations can help in finding the right UHPLC method for a complex sample, as described by Frank Steiner in his article.
In the pharmaceutical industry, research labs often address these issues by fast and efficient method screening which evaluates several if not many different stationary phases to find a suitable separation setup. To achieve economy of scale, these processes are bundled in a central institution that supports several different groups of researchers within the company.
A recent paper proposes the adaption of this “industrial” approach to “academic” problems . In this regard Erik L. Regalado from Merck Research Laboratories and his co-authors asked academic groups for challenging separation problems that were slowing down research progress. By applying state-of-the-art chromatographic separation tools from the pharmaceutical industry they could easily determine suitable methods and setups for specific problems and thereby prove the usefulness of their approach in academic research.
The establishment of a shared infrastructure with a single separation science lab featuring several advanced chromatography setups and providing services to a university or a whole geographical area may have several advantages, especially when it comes to preparative chromatography. The authors also believe that such a facility would benefit the education of students who are eager to become separation specialists.
As this field is still growing, there is a great demand for dedicated separation scientists.
However, the question arises if passing on separation problems to centralized facilities would really be an advantage for developing scientists because a major part of the scientific education still is the promotion of problem-solving skills. Overcoming such problems with innovative ideas is what fosters the creativity of a researcher and the ability to think outside the box. You may argue though that service facilities and automated separation solutions might give the researchers more time to think of innovations. But still it can be dangerous not to spend a thought on the problem and to fully rely on the simple way. It opens the door to the loss of practical knowledge, which is a great concern for many companies.
Luckily separation – science & applications provides you with up-to-date research results, new applications and practical considerations so your knowledge stays right at its peak. Enjoy reading!
Till von Graberg
 Regalado E.L. et al.: Org. Biomol. Chem. 12, 2161-2166 (2014)