Mass Spectrometry Services - Buying decisions
Below are details on how to make choices between the three most common options available for mass spectrometry services in the US. We have reviewed the main choice points on leasing, renting and outsourcing mass spectrometry equipment or testing. The top two choice points for making this decision are, the volume of testing to be done and the duration of time this volume will be coming through the laboratory.
An exhaustive search of the procurement of laboratory equipment and experimentation, especially that of mass spec was completed and reported on. While pinning exact numbers on cost for each option is difficult without understanding a laboratory's specific situation and desires all other aspects of services to be considered have been covered.
MASS SPECTROMETRY SERVICES IN THE US
Mass spectrometers can cost in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the precision of the machine, additional components and its age. For this reason, there are multiple kinds of services offered to alleviate the incurrence of a large one-time cost. There are three main choices, the first is to lease the equipment, rent the equipment or outsource the testing to a third-party lab. Important choice points to whether experimentation should take place in-house or be outsourced are:
• How much mass spectrometry testing will the laboratory be doing?
• How long will the laboratory require this type of testing at this specific volume?
LEASING A MASS SPECTROMETER
Making the decision to lease will largely depend on the volume of work a laboratory typically does and the length of time this form of data will need to be gathered. There are multiple types of leases including a capital lease, operating lease and refresh-type lease. The first situation is considered a rent to own type of contract where ownership is transferred to the lessee at the end of the contract. The second and third situations are similar to a long-term rental agreement. At the end of an operating lease, the laboratory simply returns the equipment, in a refresh-type lease the laboratory is obligated to update equipment and sometimes lease agreements, as new versions of equipment are rolled out.
It should be noted that interest rates in a leasing situation can vary. Commonly, rates will be higher on an operational lease. Often, refresh-type leases can leave a laboratory trapped in a high rate agreement in an environment where rates are coming down. Comparatively, at the end of an operating lease agreement, there may be room for renegotiation of prices if the laboratory decides to keep the equipment beyond the period of the original agreement. Each lease type has its own benefits depending on what a laboratory is looking for. Important choice points on the best type of lease should be:
• Does the laboratory eventually want to own the equipment?
• Is the purpose of leasing to always have the most cutting-edge precision equipment?
• Cost-benefit analysis of each situation -i.e. Will the equipment eventually pay for itself?
• The credit history of the laboratory/business.
When using a lease to obtain equipment, laboratory managers will need to be sure that there is a warranty and/or service agreement written into the contract to protect the lessee in case of mechanical failures.
RENTING A MASS SPECTROMETER
Renting a mass spectrometer is similar to leasing one, the difference being that rental contracts are intended for shorter terms than a leasing contract. For this reason, renting is a bit more expensive than leasing. The main consideration as far as leasing this piece of equipment should be:
• What time frame is the laboratory looking to use this piece of equipment?
Leasing contracts are usually for no less than one year, with the most common time frame being 24 to 60 months. Renting is a viable option when there is a high volume of samples to run over a short period.
Many educational intuitions such as Universities and other research facilities will rent out time on mass spectrometers to interested parties. Normally there is a training process to become familiar with the equipment before it may be used. Rental rates are usually calculated by the hour and will vary greatly depending on region and the institution itself.
OUTSOURCING MASS SPECTROMETRY ANALYSIS
Making the decision to outsource this type of work will largely depend on the volume of work to be done and over what time period that will be. In other words, over the course of 5 or ten years, would it be more cost effective to send samples out, or pay the fees to bring the equipment in-house? That said, there is a multitude of third-party labs in the US that offer a variety of mass spectrometry services. There are even choices to be made as to using a private company or a university represented laboratory to run and analyze samples. Commonly, for small projects, a university laboratory makes sense, as they will charge less than a private company that specializes in mass spectrometry analysis. The downfall, of course, being that university laboratories are less likely to hold accreditation. The cost will depend on laboratory chosen, type of mass spectrometry needed, sample preparation, turn over time, requested analysis, distance sent and mailing services used.
It is safe to say, however, that outsourcing this type of lab work will make the most sense for laboratories that do not require this type of testing on a regular basis or large volumes of it at any time. Outsourcing is also the best option for laboratories that do not have trained staff or students to properly use the equipment.
To wrap this up, the main driver for making any one of the above choices is going to be sample volume. The next main choice point is the duration of time said sample volume will exist. Going off of these two answers it will be easy to narrow down which category, leasing, renting or outsourcing should be utilized. From there, it is best to drill down into the specific budget dynamics and overall needs of the laboratory to make a sound choice.