SelectScience Interview: The Phenomenex Story Part 2: Leading the Field in Urine Analytics

Richard Thomas, CSO, Precision Diagnostics, discusses use of HPLC at leading drug detection laboratory

06 Oct 2016


Richard Thomas, CSO, Precision Diagnostics

Richard Thomas is Chief Scientific Officer at Precision Diagnostics. Sonia Nicholas, Associate Editor, spoke to Richard to learn more about his work and the technology that he uses in his laboratory.

SN: Can you tell us a little bit more about Precision Diagnostics?

RT: Precision Diagnostics is a laboratory that tests urine samples for drugs such as opiates. We provide this drug screening for facilities across the United States.

Precision Diagnostics is a leading U.S. laboratory that has invested in and is committed to deploying the most advanced, ultra-high sensitivity LC-MS/MS technology for comprehensive urine testing. The automated processes that we employ have reduced human error, and ensured fast turnaround times. We process approximately 1,600 samples a day so it is imperative to us that we use products that are reliable and robust.

SN: How many tests do you process a month/year?

RT: We process approximately 25,000 samples a month, which as you can imagine is a lot of urine! The number of samples we process is steadily increasing, we are seeing approximately a 7-10% growth in test requests per month.

SN: Can you tell us more about your role and responsibilities in the lab?

RT: When I first started working here I was the only lab scientist. I developed most of the laboratory mass spectrometry (MS) assays that the lab is now using. Now of course, as the CSO, I take a more administrative role, although I am in the lab troubleshooting on a daily basis.

SN: What HPLC technology do you use in the lab?

RT: All of the high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) columns that we use in the laboratory are from Phenomenex, so all of our assays have been designed around using HPLC on Phenomenex columns.

The Kinetex Biphenyl Core-Shell Columns offer enhanced separation power


SN: Why do you use only Phenomenex HPLC columns?

RT: After I achieved my PhD in 2001, I moved to San Diego to work in organic chemistry. I started doing business with Phenomenex almost immediately so I’ve known the team there for a long time now.

With regards to the technology, I use the HPLC columns because I find them to be competitively priced, significantly more reliable, and more durable than other makes. For me, the most important factors when choosing a column are longevity of the column and reproducibility of the separation. We can analyze 77 compounds in 7 minutes, so it is crucial that there is no drift in the retention time in the column. These columns meet these requirements, which is why we use them.

SN: How do you work in partnership with Phenomenex?

RT: When we are at the start of designing an assay, we work with the team at Phenomenex to decide on which initial column might be best. After that, the scientific team here will go on to actually devise and validate the assays. As well as the column advantages mentioned earlier, the advantage of working with Phenomenex is that the company is very easy to work with. The R&D team is really responsive to questions and get back to us rapidly. The team really listens to my views, which I appreciate.

SN: Are you working on any new tests in the laboratory?

RT: Yes we are currently working on a new methamphetamine test, using Phenomenex columns. We are assessing a LC Column to see if it provides superior analysis to our existing method. The potential advantages of this test are that it is ready to go without the need for solid phase extraction.

SN: Do you have any final comments?

RT: I feel very strongly about Phenomenex products – the quality of the product, the service, the technical support and the people are what keeps me returning as a happy customer.