As 2017 draws to a close, we take a moment to review the innovations and scientific accomplishments that this year delivered. New technologies and product solutions touched upon all branches of mass spectrometry. If 2017 is any indication, we forecast a flurry of ideas and a fresh accumulation of new developments for 2018.

As detailed in an accompanying article, clinical applications of LC-MS/MS have come a long way with the launch of several new platforms and solutions in 2017. LC-MS/MS-based assays have now achieved the benchmark of FDA-approved in vitro diagnostic (IVD) status with the vitamin D assay kit from Sciex, opening the door for further such assays and potentially opening the flood gates for large-scale implementation in the clinical lab.

Although many LC-MS platforms have garnered certified medical device status, coupling these with FDA-approved assays will undoubtedly lower the barrier for entry. Along with simplified instrument operation and maintenance, these developments may mean a paradigm shift in clinical lab analysis.

As next step would be integration of several IVD-approved assays on a standard MS device, a challenge which will require continued refinement to the assays, instruments, and sample workflows. Manufacturers are currently forging this trail, and 2018 will be an interesting year for new developments along this front.

MALDI imaging has seen impressive growth over the past few years, and in 2017 has seen increased adoption by the pharmaceutical research community as an early-stage drug screening tool. This speaks to the quality and reliability of the technique to produce actionable results at the high standards demanded by the industry.

Notable developments this year include: improved ability to integrate traditional histology images with MALDI mass spectra, increased spatial resolution, and further refined statistical data analysis capabilities. These are significant landmarks along the road to widespread implementation of the technology, and 2018 will undoubtedly bring further excitement to this innovative field.

Down-sized MS has seen an explosion of interest in areas including size-conscious efficiency and remote-site operation. We explore these developments and applications by focusing on new achievements for existing technology and fresh innovations that are certain to see widespread appeal.

The field in general has been undergoing a steady move from experimental engineering of smaller less complex instruments to industry marketing of built-for-purpose compact instruments. This is particularly exciting as it advances the boundaries of what can be measured and where it can be analyzed.

Efficiency is a growing theme in modern lab operations and several new launches in 2017 focused on minimizing size while maximizing performance. Along these lines, instrument care, maintenance, and ease of operation were all major topics in this year’s catalog. This focus on efficiency will continue to gather steam as lab space becomes an increasingly valuable commodity – with instrument workload requirements increasing at a similar clip.

We conclude this edition with a snapshot of notable technologies that are ripe for the picking. Many additional technologies and products formed the landscape of 2017 – far too many to explore here. We will continue to dive into these in future editions, particularly as they apply to new and exciting developments in 2018.