How It All Started

By Judy Pickering

Four years into our 40-year marriage, I can recall Michael saying “I know I can improve amino acid analysis” with such enthusiasm it could only mean big things.  He’d finished up his second post-doc and was working in industry – a startling contrast, to be sure, but moving every year was increasingly difficult with our growing family.  So, we settled in the Bay Area permanently and he started first with Durham Instruments and then worked for Spectra Physics.  At the time, amino acid analysis was taking chemists on the order of 12 hours per run!  Reducing the run time to three hours was only the first of many developments Michael had up his sleeve. 

Within the year, Michael left his job to start Pickering Laboratories with our flagship product: Trione®, our ninhydrin reagent.  The first bottles were sent out to industry experts for evaluation, and became our ambassadors carrying with them our hope of building a successful business.  I remember it was important to Michael for the bottles of Trione® to ship upright, because he thought of them as little soldiers marching off to the marketplace to do the job of defending his reputation and building our brand.

The early days of the business were challenging.  Michael did all the phases of production, taking orders as well as all of the manufacturing, packaging and shipping.  He even “hired” our two older kids to wash the bottles sometimes.  I was working in corporate marketing at the time, so I would attend trade shows and help Michael network with potential customers.  We didn’t want people to know we were such a small company, so I used my maiden name to give the appearance I was an employee instead of his wife!

Michael at One of Our Early Booths.

When Michael would talk to chemists about Trione®, they would get so excited about this breakthrough reagent for amino acids analysis.  We were always grateful so many people offered their advice and counsel just to help the enterprise along.  It was rough-and-tumble for the first year or two, and every encouraging word helped keep us going.

Customer orders began building momentum, and Michael and I breathed a sigh of relief!  Michael hired an additional 3-4 people on staff and I quit my job to help with administrative duties and expanding our marketing efforts.  He determined there was demand for a post-column derivatization instrument, and the PCX5000 was born.  Our earliest foray into instrumentation came as a benchtop kit, with standalone components including a pump, mixing system and reactor. Michael initially didn’t want Pickering Labs to be an instrument company, but we found that the instruments were needed to support the sale of our Trione® reagent and also the growing family of buffers we were selling.

Michael and Our Oldest Daughter in Front of Our First Building.

Michael’s reputation for post-column expertise began gaining attention from other chemists whose applications were post-column but not amino acid analysis.  As a result, Michael began to explore these other industries’ post-column needs.  And when he developed Pickering’s OPA-reagent-based products for analysis of Carbamates and Glyphosate, he entered into the world of environmental testing and began working with EPA methods.  Chemists who had previously been making their own eluents by following the EPA methods could now buy Michael’s ready-to-use buffers and purified reagents instead.  And they kept reordering because of the quality and reproducibility that Michael’s chemistry delivered. He would even say that he would “guarantee the chromatogram” to any chemist using his products, which was unprecedented. 

With the administrative/office duties securely staffed and the business looking more and more like a successful enterprise, I stepped back into a part-time role and focused on marketing.  As our family expanded, my time also became more occupied at home (our two youngest daughters were born in the mid-80’s).  By the end of the eighties, Michael was ready to hire additional staff to manage the business so he could really focus on his true passion: research and product development. 

In fact, as I think about that time, the early nineties are when the company really started to take shape in its modern form.  Michael added then-Operations-Manager Jim Murphy to manage the business in 1991 (Jim is our current President) and shifted fully into a technical role.  They also hired a full-time marketing manager, and so I went to work soon thereafter for the Palo Alto school district. 

Michael and his team evolved the PCX5000 standalone kit into the PCX3100 and PCX5100, our first fully-integrated post-column derivatization instruments.  Michael also developed more post-column applications with the collaboration of EPA, FDA, AOAC and CDFA, all of which further expanded our chemistries and columns offered.  Which in turn cemented our customer base and reputation for making the post-column instruments.  The business experienced steady growth, and the PCX3100 and PCX5100 sold well and supported our chemistry sales exactly as we’d envisioned.

Pickering Labs celebrating its 35th anniversary is a wonderful chance for me to reflect on working so closely with Michael during the first ten years of the business.  And I’d like to use our newsletter as an opportunity to introduce myself, or reintroduce myself to our long-time customers.  After my retirement from the school district, I began getting involved in the business again and joined the Board of Directors in 2014.  My work with the Pickering team behind the scenes isn’t very visibile to our customers, but I hope this gives us an opportunity to remember Michael together and that you enjoy my fond recollections (and new perspective?) of how Pickering Labs began.

Michael and Judy Pickering,
Back When It All Started.

Pickering Labs Celebrates 35 Years!


     

Thank you for being our customer and we hope you enjoy these fantastic photos. Our employees had a lot of fun digging through their old scrapbooks to help create this blast from the past!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Legacy of Collaboration between Pickering Laboratories and AOAC International

In the field of analytical chemistry, one of the important industry standards organizations is The Association of Analytical Communities – AOAC international. Founded in 1884, the organization has since developed and validated analytical methods for agriculture, pharmaceuticals, foods and other products for the United States and internationally.

Pickering Laboratories began its collaboration with AOAC almost 30 years ago with the introduction of EPA official methods for Carbamates and Glyphosate analysis in water based on post-column derivatization. Our company organized workshops and training sessions to help implement these methods in government and private labs. Pickering Laboratories also started manufacturing reagents and other consumables for Carbamates and Glyphosate analysis methods so testing laboratories could have confidence in the quality and reproducibility of the solutions and save valuable time by avoiding making small batches themselves.

“Michael Pickering always supported the AOAC and the state labs in providing workshops and extensive support.”  Laszlo Torma, Former Director of the Montana Department of Agriculture Analytical Laboratory. Laszlo continues “Michael made many enduring friendships because of his very personable and expert guidance.”

Pickering Laboratories was invited to present workshops at many of the AOAC regional section meetings. At the Midwest AOAC, Pickering Laboratories organized workshops for Amino Acids Analysis and Multi-Residue Mycotoxins Analysis in foods. At the Pacific Northwest AOAC meeting, Pickering Laboratories presented a workshop on the Paralytic Shellfish Toxins Analysis with HPLC and post-column derivatization. This was one of the critical steps in the transition to requiring this new post-column method and replacing the mouse bio-assay for analysis of Paralytic Shellfish Toxins.

Pickering Laboratories has also participated in several multi-lab collaborative studies organized by AOAC and our chemists have published many method validations in the Journal of AOAC International. Our post-column method for Multi-Residue Mycotoxins Analysis was awarded the ‘Single Laboratory Validation of the Year’ distinction by AOAC in 2009.

AOAC continues its great work as a leading standards-developing organization by assembling Stakeholders Panels that consist of representatives from industry, testing laboratories, researchers and government organizations to determine the needs for new methods. Vetted chemists are invited to join Expert Review Panels, who evaluate these incoming new methods to determine they are scientifically sound, reproducible and rugged. Expert Review Panels make the final determine if the method can be granted an official AOAC method status.

Today, Pickering Laboratories continues our legacy of AOAC collaboration with Dr. Maria Ofitserova, our Senior Research Chemist, who is empaneled on several committees.

  • AOAC Stakeholder Panel on Dietary Supplements (SPDS)
  • AOAC Stakeholder Panel on Infant Formula and Adult Nutritionals (SPIFAN)
  • Expert review panel for SPIFAN

The futures for AOAC and Pickering Laboratories are both dependent on the collaboration of standards bodies and the industries that rely on them for the creation and validation of methods that enable the analyses required to keep our foods and drugs safe.

 

 

 

Chromatography Quiz #28

Chromatography Quiz #27: Only AMPA – Results

Pickering Laboratories would like to congratulate the winners of our last newsletter’s Glyphosate Quiz – Only AMPA: Mark Ritari from Anatek Labs, David Green from Pepperdine University, Jim Balk from Nebraska DHHS Public Health Environmental Laboratory, Maggie Larson from Cumberland Valley Analytical Services, Eric Fuehrer from Mid-Continent Testing Laboratories, Narjes Ghafoori from LA County Environmental Toxicology Lab, Tom Schneider from Suffolk County Water Authority, Karissa Scroggins from North Coast Laboratories, and Mark Murphy from EPA Region 8 Lab.

They have each won and will shortly receive: a Holiday Bakery Gift Tower! filled with a blissful assortment of melt-in-your mouth treats! These goodies will be oh-so hard to share. Enjoy the treats and best wishes for a merry holiday season!

Thank you all for your submissions! 

The correct answer to the Only AMPA Quiz:

There is a problem with reagent #1, the sodium hypochlorite reagent (in CB130). The problems could range from Pump 1 not pumping to no bleach being added. Bleach is required to convert Glyphosate to Glycine, which will react with OPA and Thiofluor. So, if no bleach is present, none of the Glyphosate will be able to react with the OPA and Thiofluor. Only AMPA will be free to react and fluoresce, and your chromatogram will be missing a peak!

Chromatography Quiz #28: 35th Anniversary Word Puzzle

Simply email your answer as well as your full contact information to Rebecca at rlsmith@pickeringlabs.com by January 15, 2018 in order to win.  You will receive email confirmation that your submission has been received.  The answer to the quiz and winner congratulations will be published in the next issue (to be anonymous, please notify Rebecca in submission). 
 

  

A R T I F I C I A L W N C V P
K E Z H I G J S I R O N E M I
Z O A J I B P G E I X C I A N
F I D E L O A Y T V T K T C N
T U G K Y B F A N O E Z D C A
O M D H R A R L R O Y R R E C
N I L I D I J W U H H S O B L
Y J E I P K Z Z Q O T T W E E
D L V S G L O R I A R A N R F
A A R A T E E R A S I I F A D
D E I J A S G Q P P O R W N L
P I C R K Y K I M X N A U C O
R  S A R X P C E A V E M X P W
A T I N A H Z D D R D B E B Z
X W O X A A Y H B E C X N F M
ANITA
ANTHONY
ARTIFICIAL
CRAIG
DAVID
DIANA
EDMUND
FIDEL
GABRIELA
GLORIA
JAY
JIM
MARIA
MIKE
PERSPIRATION
PINNACLE
REBECCA
SAJI
SAREETA
SEVERO
THIOFLUOR
TONY
TRIONE
VECTOR

Latin-American Pesticide Residue Workshop 2017

Pickering at the LAPRW 2017

This year, David Mazawa and Rebecca Smith traveled to and participated in The 6th Latin-American Pesticide Residue Workshop: Food and Environment (LAPRW 2017), which took place from May 14-17 in San Jose, Costa Rica. The location was perfect for discussing the global impact of environmental residues: Costa Rica protects over a quarter of all its land in national parks, wildlife refuges and reserves. And the country boasts nearly 6% of the entire world’s biodiversity!

Costa Rica is home to Macaws and hundreds of other beautiful birds.

This workshop continued building on the success of the previous five LAPRW workshops by keeping scientists and regulators informed about the advances in pesticide residue regulation in food and the environment, methodologies of analysis, instrumentation, risk analysis, monitoring, and quality control assurance of laboratories.

Three toed sloth, hanging out.

Pickering Laboratories, Inc. is proud to sponsor and support this great conference. We would like to thank the organizers: Centro de Investigación en Contaminación Ambiental (CICA) and different units of the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR) and the Servicio Fitosanitario del Estado (SFE) of the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería de Costa Rica (MAG). Their hard work and dedication really showed in the quality of the conference and this workshop wouldn’t have been possible without them.

David at the Pickering Booth, reviewing the exciting technical program!

After an exciting week of technical talks and networking with scientists from around the world, we came back to the lab with great contacts, and several new ideas for how to best serve our international customers.

We look forward the next LAPRW workshop at Iguazu Falls, Brazil!

Pittcon and Presenting Product Testing!

Pickering Laboratories exhibited at the 67th Pittcon annual conference, which was held March 5-9 in Chicago this year. Pittcon is the leading exhibition for laboratory science and new technology in food safety, life science and emerging markets.  As we have for the last 30 years, Pickering Laboratories exhibited as the leader in Post-Column applications and technology.

As perhaps an unexpected addition, we splashed Pittcon with the introduction of our Pickering Test Solutions product line.  The varied audience of Pittcon was ideal for the diverse applications of our product testing solutions and we received a warm reception.  Thank you to everyone who stopped by the booth for more information!

To celebrate our artificial perspiration Pittcon debut, we worked up a sweat by raffling a Fitbit Flex twice daily.  (Congratulations again to the winners of the Fitbits!)  Our sweat themed giveaways of exercise towels and workout headbands made a nice complement to our classic post-column rulers, and overall we felt we informed and entertained our fellow attendees.

As mentioned, the Pickering Test Solutions product line was of active interest to many of the Pittcon attendees. Among the industries interested in these product test solutions were: tobacco, electronics, surgical instruments, materials science, pharmaceutical dissolution testing and others.

Our product testing solutions include:

  • Artificial Perspiration
  • Artificial Saliva
  • Artificial Urine
  • Artificial Sebum
  • Artificial Cerumen

If you don’t see what you need, just ask!  Customer requests for specific regulation or standard formulations of an artificial body fluid often result in new additions to the product line. We also produce numerous proprietary formulations that are custom made for our customers’ in-house needs, which you won’t find in our publicly available catalog.

Our core post-column business is still going strong.  New and highlighted applications included:

  • Theanine in Tea
  • Glyphosate in Foods
  • Carbamates in Foods
  • Formaldehyde
  • Amino Acids in Pharmacopoeia 8.0

Glyphosate testing is a major focus of our research initiatives this year as the activity surrounding Glyphosate worldwide has increased. The application note MA 211 Glyphosate Analysis in Foods  addresses concerns that Glyphosate has been found in the finished food products available to consumers, and corresponding to media attention resulting in the FDA considering testing for Glyphosate in finished foods.

Pickering Laboratories is an active participant in the AOAC method development and has been for many years. Our latest collaboration MA 378 Analysis of L-Theanine in Tea by HPLC with Post-Column Derivatization was approved by the Expert Review Panel as an AOAC First Action Official Method for the analysis of Theanine.  The method can be implemented by laboratories for analysis of a wide range of complex green tea-containing dietary supplements in forms of powders, tablets, tinctures, gelcaps, softgels and capsules. This official method has been published in the Journal of AOAC International.

We always enjoy visiting with our customers, distributors and other Pittcon attendees though the show.  Thank you again for your visits and for your business over the years!

Cannabis Research and Resulting Poster and Application Note

Broader acceptance of medical cannabis use increases the need for analytical methods capable of determining the active compounds of cannabis as well as for methods to detect contaminations, such as pesticide residues, mycotoxins and traces of organic solvents. Cannabinoids are a class of terpenophenolic compounds that are associated with the pharmacological activity of cannabis. Cannabinoids exist in the plant mainly as carboxylic acids that are not physiologically active. They are converted to neutral analogs by light and heat while in storage or during the preparation of edible products. Acids are also converted to neutral analogs during GC analysis, which often causes differences in results when comparing with HPLC methods.

We developed a new post-column derivatization method to analyze cannabinoids in cannabis plants as well as in cannabis-containing edible products. This post-column method is based on reaction with Fast Blue Salt reagent under basic conditions, a well-known color-forming reaction that is used in drug tests to detect cannabinoids via test-tube methods and thin-layer chromatography. Detection at 475 nm is performed using a UV/Vis detector.

Our method implements a simple extraction with acidified water/acetonitrile followed by QuEChERS sample clean-up. The same procedure is applicable to both plant materials and edible products containing cannabis. The method is suitable for analysis of the major neutral cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, CBN and CBG as well cannabinoid acids THCA-A and CBDA with high sensitivity and selectivity of detection.

Guaranteed Chemistry