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Evaluation of the Luxon Ion Source for Rapid Screening in Forensic Laboratories

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $319,172)

Toxicology laboratories are facing increased workloads due to case volume and an expanding and changing analytical scope. As funding levels and workforce are not keeping up, there is a need for greater efficiency that, in part, can be met by implementing new technology such as direct mass spectrometry for drug screening. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences Standards Board (ASB) recommended that the minimum screening scope for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) testing should include 24 analytes in blood, which is the same analytes recommended by the National Safety Council (NSC) as Tier 1 analytes. NSC also recommends testing an additional 35 drugs and drug classes that are considered Tier 2 analytes. To accomplish the scope outlined in the ASB standards, many laboratories use a combination of immunoassay and chromatographic screening methods. Direct mass spectrometry, a system that introduces a sample into a mass spectrometer without prior chromatographic separation, promises a rapid and cost-efficient screening alternative. Without chromatographic separation, run times can be measured in seconds (instead of minutes). Direct mass spectrometry allows for rapid data processing like that of immunoassays. This efficiency can be used to free up analyst time for other tasks and improve laboratory turnaround time. Potentially, additional cost-savings could be realized through simplified sample preparation. Although increases in efficiency are needed throughout the toxicological workflow, this proposal focuses on drug screening, which frequently includes some of the most complicated methods in the laboratory, and because direct mass spectrometry offers the possibility of breakthrough cost-efficiency and reductions in labor. 

We propose to evaluate one type of direct mass spectrometry technology, the Luxon Ion Source coupled to two different mass spectrometers. The Luxon will be validated on both to meet the minimum scope and sensitivity requirements in the ASB standards for blood. We will also analyze case samples and compare screening workflows for time, cost-efficiency, and screening and confirmation results in collaboration with our accredited laboratory partner, North Carolina State Crime Laboratory (NCSCL). In addition, we will work with NCSCL to determine emerging technology implementation needs and develop materials to assist with emerging technology adoption.  CA/NCF

Date Created: September 26, 2023