Algae Blooms are Getting Worse

Growing red tides are threatening marine ecosystems

Growing red tides are threatening marine ecosystems

A gigantic colony of toxic algae in the Pacific Ocean near the United States is currently threatening the region’s fishing industry, tourism and public safety.  The algae bloom, which stretches from California to Alaska and has been growing for months, is up to 40 miles wide and up to 650 feet deep.

It sounds like a bad science fiction movie, but it’s not.  Algae blooms have been reported around the world in locations ranging from Mexico to Iran to Russia to Senegal.  Last year, an algae bloom in America’s Great Lakes forced the city of Toledo, Ohio, to shut down its drinking water supply.

Historically, algae blooms are cyclical and dissipate quickly.  But lately they have getting been more frequent and longer lasting, occurring in more places and over wider geographic areas.  The science is not yet conclusive, but some researchers believe this is a consequence of climate change resulting in warmer water.  Others believe that human activities such as agriculture, mining and sewage disposal create a more nutrient-rich environment in coastal waters.

Ocean blooms turn seawater reddish-brown, earning them the nickname “red tides.”  Freshwater blooms tend to be bluish-green.  Some algae species produce neurotoxins that can endanger marine ecosystems and human health.  The consumption of contaminated shellfish or fish can lead to human poisoning or even death.

The previous method for monitoring biotoxins, the mouse bioassay, was determined to be inadequate.  Agilent has developed an integrated method that uses a Triple-Quadrupole LC-MS system in combination with a rapid-resolution HPLC and MassHunter software.  This method is highly sensitive and selective in determining marine toxins in shellfish, and has the flexibility to add other lipophilic (fat-dissolving) toxins.


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Filed Under: All, Life Sciences
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Agilent Partners for Cutting-Edge Cancer Research

Agilent's Zhao Ying and MabPlex's Dr. Ruan Maorong

Agilent’s Zhao Ying and MabPlex’s Dr. Ruan Maorong

One of the biggest challenges in treating cancer is to target diseased cells while preserving healthy ones.  Traditional approaches such as chemotherapy destroy healthy cells as well as cancerous ones, causing toxic side effects for patients.

A promising new approach involves targeted therapeutics called antibody-drug conjugates.  An ADC contains both a monoclonal antibody and a cytotoxin, bound together.  The monoclonal antibody imitates the body’s immune system, causing it to bind to a target diseased cell.  The cytotoxic agent then releases a lethal toxin into the cell.

ADCs are extremely complex, and only a few providers around the world have the technical expertise to develop them.  MabPlex International, Ltd. is the largest ADC producer in Asia and one of the top providers worldwide.  MabPlex performs outsourced services that include high-quality biopharmaceutical R&D and production.

Agilent has partnered with MabPlex to establish a joint lab in Yantai, northeastern China.  This lab is Agilent’s first joint facility in Greater China to conduct advanced biopharmaceutical research and analysis of ADCs.  It will provide an integrated analytical platform for researchers, offer analytical services, and support the sustainable development of China’s biopharmaceutical industry.

“Agilent will continue to help China’s pharma providers bring high-quality drugs to market faster and at a lower cost,” says Agilent’s Zhao Ying.  “In this partnership we’ll provide not only the technical platforms, but will work closely with customers to hear their requests and develop the corresponding total solutions.”

Agilent systems in the lab include the Agilent 1290 Infinity UHPLC, 6530 Q-TOF mass spectrometer, 1260 Infinity LC, 7890A GC, Agilent’s capillary electrophoresis solution and more.


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Agilent and the California Drought

Agilent is reducing its water usage in California and beyond

Agilent is reducing its water usage in California and beyond

California is currently facing one of its most extreme droughts on record.  First declared in December 2011, the drought is considered the worst in 1,200 years.  The entire state is currently operating under mandatory water restrictions in urban areas to reduce potable water usage by 25 percent.

Agilent has its corporate headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif.  The company has additional manufacturing sites in Folsom and Carpinteria.  While the state’s restrictions do not apply to business sectors using water for manufacturing, Agilent is still investing in a smarter water infrastructure and new best practices.

The Santa Clara site has reduced water usage in the first half of fiscal 2015 by 15 percent when compared with the first half of fiscal 2014.  The site is in the final stages of installing low-flow shower heads in the gym, and uses flow-restricting bathroom faucets.  The site continues to find areas where it can use mulch on vegetation to decrease evaporation.  (Unfortunately, Agilent’s proposal to drain the pond outside its main lobby was denied by the city of Santa Clara, due to fire protection requirements.)

The Folsom site in Northern California has implemented a cleaning system for its production baths used in gas chromatography column manufacturing, saving 44,000 gallons a year.  The site also uses recirculated water in its pond outside the lobby, and is installing a drip system for trees and a smart water controller that factors in weather conditions.

The Carpinteria site in Southern California will soon replace an inefficient reverse-osmosis drinking water system with one that uses filters instead.  This will result in drinking water procured with zero waste.  Like Folsom’s, Carpinteria’s outside fountain uses recirculated water.  Once the water evaporates to where operating the pump is no longer feasible, the fountain will be shut off.

Agilent is investing for the long term.  “Our companywide goal is 20 percent water conservation over 10 years, with fiscal 2014 as our baseline,” says Agilent’s Scott Nixon.  “The efforts across our California sites, to keep current with emergency regulations and implement conservation measures, have been tremendous.”

As a company focused on inspiring scientific discovery, Agilent recognizes the wide-ranging implications of climate change – affecting water resources, agriculture, biodiversity and public health.  In addition to its business practices, the company also works to minimize the environmental impact of its products and packaging.


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Filed Under: All, Corporate, Sustainability
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