Establishing Industry QA/QC Best Practices for Global Metabolomics
When evaluating large quantities of information, it is paramount to make data quality a top priority. Metabolon’s Precision Metabolomics™ Data quality is extremely important to maintaining exceptionally high standards. From start to finish, Metabolon emphasizes quality control measures and checks and balances.
Metabolon has been focused on the quality of its metabolomics data from its early days – more than 20 years ago. “Metabolon’s commitment to the highest quality data has attracted industry recognition, and by collaborating with academic, industry and government entities we can work to raise awareness about the importance of quality control and quality assurance to establish industry standards and elevate recognition of the field,” says Annie Evans, Ph.D., Director of Research and Development for Metabolon and member of the Metabolomics Quality Assurance & Quality Control Consortium (mQACC) working to develop and teach industry standards.
The mQACC community recently published its paper titled, “Dissemination and analysis of the quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) practices of LC–MS based untargeted metabolomics practitioners,” which focuses on its work to identify and share the commonalities and differences in QA and QC practices among mQACC members and collaborators who use liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) in global metabolomics.
Established in February 2018, mQACC is a collaborative effort among relevant stakeholders in academic, industry and government institutions to address key quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) issues in the untargeted metabolomics field.
For more insight into the paper’s analysis, we interviewed Dr. Evans.
What was the goal of this analysis and resulting publication?
The goal was to increase awareness of the importance of QA and QC by sharing and comparing the QA/QC practices from untargeted metabolomics practitioners globally. Ultimately, the mQACC working group was established to make sure metabolomics data that is being used to draw biological conclusions is high enough quality to prevent inaccurate conclusions from being drawn. That is how the field will continue to drive biology forward.
What were some of the takeaways from the analysis of QA and QC practices across metabolomics labs?
We found good agreement among labs regarding various quality control practices used. Including:
- Pre-run system assessments to make sure the instrumentation was operating well before sample analysis
- Sample run-order randomization and balancing to remove instrument analysis-time bias
- The use of authentic chemical standards to evaluate the quality of the sample analyses
- The use of various quality control samples such as pooled-QC samples and blanks to further evaluate the quality of the sample analyses
The common methods across users show the value of important laboratory measures and standards to monitor and control quality in the science of metabolomics. There was, however, limited consensus surrounding most quality assurance practices, with the exception of instrument maintenance and sample storage. Thanks to this publication we now know there are gaps in QA standards opening the discussion for educating the community as well as highlighting the value of varied QA practices and mQACC is continuing to work in these areas.
How will mQACC leverage this work to drive acceptance in the metabolomics community?
The data collected and disseminated in this manuscript provides guidance on the areas of QA and QC that need attention from metabolomics scientists to support standardization and where additional data is needed to support broad acceptance of metabolomics, as an essential tool that delivers powerful biological insights. This manuscript provided a high-level assessment of the uses of many QA and QC practices, but deeper dives into each category is needed and is on-going through working groups within mQACC.
Why is mQACC’s work important to the industry?
The field of untargeted metabolomics continues to expand due to its growing track record of providing a crucial understanding of biological processes including aging, disease, and the role of the microbiome in health. Global metabolomics can drive incredibly powerful biological insights, enriching scientific research in the areas of pharmaceutical development, precision medicine, population health and more. Because of the technology’s advances, more and more labs and core facilities have begun to dabble in untargeted metabolomics. A lack of unified standards creates challenges for acceptance. The authors of our mQACC publication put it this way:
“The concern within the untargeted metabolomics community, and the agencies that fund them, is that data collected under poor quality management could generate biased results, waste valuable resources throughout the scientific process, halt progress, or even harm the field’s reputation for high quality science. This would be a great disadvantage considering the potential of metabolomics to substantially contribute to the advancement of scientific discovery.”
Why is the work of mQACC important to Metabolon?
At Metabolon we set the standard in delivering high-quality metabolomic data. We want metabolomics to change the world. We know others are doing it and doing it right. We don’t want metabolomics to suffer because of poor quality data, and so we are proud to contribute to the efforts of mQACC. We hope that by sharing our knowledge, supported by 20 years of experience in metabolomics, we will help establish quality control and quality assurance industry standards that elevate recognition for metabolomics.
More about Dr. Annie Evans:
Dr. Annie Evans leads the discovery metabolomics and lipidomics profiling research and development team at Metabolon, Inc. The metabolomics and lipidomics platforms developed under Dr. Evans have been the analytical basis for thousands of commercial studies from over 700 institutions since 2004. She has over 30 publications covering the analytical methodology as well as informatics, data processing requirements and approaches for global profiling metabolomics and lipidomics workflows. These publications have been cumulatively cited over 2000 times, with a foundational metabolomics methodology paper being cited over 650 times. These publications have spanned various technology journals such of the Analytical Chemistry and the Journal of Chromatography, biological journals such as Blood and PNAS as well as high impact journals such as Nature Genetics. Dr. Evans currently holds an h-index of 35, with a JCR of 13. She is involved in industry establishment of quality control methods through the National Institutes of Health Metabolomics Quality Assurance & Quality Control Consortium (mQACC).