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DART-TOF MS Screening of Fentanyl and Other Emerging Drugs
Wednesday, October 11, 2017 2:45:00 PM UTC - 4:00:00 PM UTC
Duration: 1 hour(s) 15 minute(s)
This webinar details how the Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART) ion source coupled to a Time-of-Flight mass spectrometer (TOF-MS) is used as the primary choice in the forensic screening of controlled substances, now expanding into fentanyl analogues.
Webinar Time: 11:00am EDT/8:00am PDT/3:00pm GMT

Commonly accepted practices are the use of two separate analysis techniques on two different samples.  The results of the initial screen would then determine what extraction would occur and which controls to use for GC-MS confirmation and reporting of the controlled substance.  The process could be cumbersome depending upon sample purity, with extensive sample preparation steps sometimes necessary in order to obtain acceptable data.  The other problem arose with the introduction of novel drugs into the market which did not have known spectra in libraries or published test results for comparison purposes.

A DART-TOF MS instrument presented itself as a ready solution to the increasingly complicated casework in the Drug Chemistry Laboratory.  Put in place in 2009 and by 2011 the DART TOF MS was established as the preferred forensic screening choice in the laboratory due to the robust capability of the instrument. Solid materials are directly introduced in the ion stream without the need for dilution with a solvent.  The Agilent DART-TOF MS will generate positively charged molecular ions, which are searched against a database of over 1200 compounds.  Exact mass matches must be within 5 mDa to be considered a presumptive positive screen result.  This reduced the amount of time needed for sample preparation and increased the flexibility of the screen because the database can be easily updated as long as the compound name and empirical formula are known.  The ultimate goal of screening with the DART TOF MS is to know which confirmation workflow a case needs to enter within the first week the case enters the forensic laboratory and an ultimate turnaround time of 90 days.  A glaring concern for this goal is the continuous emergence of novel compounds for analysis.

The latest class of novel compounds to be observed in casework are the fentanyl analogues and related synthetic opioids.  Often, when emerging drugs enter casework they are determined to be an unknown peak because a library match and standard is not readily available for comparison with the GC-MS.  Additionally, some of these analogues have similar EI fragmentation spectra as well as close retention times.  The similarities can lead to frustration in trying to determine what the unknown compound is for accurate identification.  The DART-TOF MS as the screen instrument is a much more efficient method for recognizing new and emerging compounds for a multitude of reasons.  The lack of necessary sample preparation minimizes the concern that an unknown analyte would be lost in extraction.  The database can be easily updated by simply entering the empirical formula of emerging drugs without the necessity of running a standard to generate a library entry.  Additionally, the DART-TOF MS uses a molecular ion to search, and many of the fentanyl analogues have different molecular weights, even if they have similar EI fragmentation patterns.  These benefits easily justify the continued use of the DART TOF MS as the primary choice in the screening of controlled substances.

Detailed Learning Objectives:
1)	 Discuss the emergence of the fentanyl analogues and related synthetic opioids drug chemistry casework. 

2)	Describe the current analytical scheme in the forensic drug chemistry laboratory with the DART TOF MS as the primary screening instrument in the workflow.

3)	Detail how the workflow accommodates analysis of novel drugs of abuse, particularly fentanyl analogues once they enter the forensic laboratory. 

For Forensic Use


Dr. Curt Harper & Dr. Erin Shonsey
Curt Harper - Appointed Toxicology Discipline Chief for the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences (ADFS) in 2012.

Erin Shonsey PhD - Director of Research at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences