Published in partnership between
TMIC and the Metabolomics Society

Issue 38 - October 2014


Online version of this newsletter:

Welcome to the thirty-eighth issue of MetaboNews, a monthly newsletter published in partnership between The Metabolomics Innovation Centre (TMIC, and the international Metabolomics Society (, to keep metabolomics researchers and other professionals informed about new technologies, software, databases, events, job postings, conferences, training opportunities, interviews, publications, awards, and other newsworthy items concerning metabolomics. MetaboNews represents the one-stop-shop for the very latest and most critical news about the science of metabolomics. In this issue, we feature a Metabolomics Spotlight article on mapping genetic influences on human metabolism, and a metabolomics interview with David Broadhurst of the University of Alberta.

This issue of MetaboNews is supported by:

Metanomics Health
Chenomx --
                                Metabolite Discovery & Measurement
Metanomics Health GmbH

Chenomx Inc.

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Metabolomics Society News


Elections for President, Treasurer and Secretary
The nomination and election of the three officer positions (President, Treasurer and Secretary) for the Metabolomics Society ended on September 23rd. Following nominations by the Board of Directors, Dr. Ute Roessner was unopposed to be elected to the position of President. It is with pleasure that we announce that the candidates receiving the most votes from the membership were Dan Bearden for Treasurer and Tim Ebbels for Secretary. Congratulations to all three officers who will start in their roles on October 1st 2014.

Swiss Metabolomics Society launched – a new International Affiliate of the Metabolomics Society
The international Metabolomics Society is excited to announce a partnership with the newly formed Swiss Metabolomics Society (SMS). This builds upon the international Society’s affiliations with several other research organizations globally, including the Australia and New Zealand Metabolomics Network (ANZMN), the Réseau Français de Métabolomique et Fluxomique (RFMF) and the Korea Metabolomics Society (KoMetS).

The Swiss Metabolomics Society (SMS) was founded in 2014 as a platform for scientists to share knowledge, exchange methods and develop partnerships centered on Metabolomics research. They are an open community of chemists, biologists, computer scientists and medical doctors with a shared interest in understanding how organisms respond to conditions ranging from genetic disorders of metabolism and infectious disease, to cancer and climate change. The SMS encourages interaction between researchers across disciplines from within Switzerland and the global community. For more information and to join the SMS please visit

The agreement with the international Metabolomics Society paves the way towards enhanced co-ordination between both parties. The affiliation will promote awareness of one another’s resources, such as publications and services, with the aim to pursue joint initiatives such as organizing metabolomics conferences or workshops as well as training opportunities for scientists at all levels and from all biological disciplines.

The international Metabolomics Society welcomes discussions with other regional and/or national groupings with the aim to form similar international affiliations, to secure closer working and to coordinate and synergize activities. Please contact the Society for further information (


Training Needs in Metabolomics: Questionnaire jointly organized by the international Metabolomics Society and ELIXIR-UK

Complete the questionnaire below and enter a prize draw for THREE $100 Amazon gift vouchers
Deadline: 23.59 (UK time) on October 15th 2014

The international Metabolomics Society was established to stimulate collaboration and association amongst scientists in academia, government and industry, and therefore to help to develop the science of metabolomics. ELIXIR-UK is the United Kingdom node within the European ELIXIR infrastructure and is focused on training that will be delivered in specialised centres, in courses, and through e-learning, in partnership with other European ELIXIR Nodes and agencies. A key mechanism for supporting the growth of metabolomics is through the provision and support of training and this questionnaire will be applied to:
•    determine the training needs of our international community
•    determine the mechanisms by which this training could be delivered
•    catalogue and subsequently advertise the training programs that already exist

We request any individual who is engaged in or who wishes to be engaged in metabolomics science, from any scientific backgrounds, any career stage, and importantly from any country or type of employment (academia, industry, government or any other groups) to complete the questionnaire. By “metabolomics science” we include the underpinning science and technology (experimental design, analytical measurements, computational analyses and informatics) and any field of application from microbes to plants and animals, including humans. Personal details will not be shared with any other organisation or society

We intend to distribute the findings from this questionnaire widely to the metabolomics community, for example through the Metabolomics journal and on-line MetaboNews, and we intend for it to guide the development of training programs globally. In particular, the information will be used to guide the development of new training programs by the international Metabolomics Society and ELIXIR UK Node.

Please complete the questionnaire below to enhance our knowledge on training requirements and delivery:

New Members-only benefit: Are you organizing a metabolomics event?
The Metabolomics Society can provide small grants to support events that promote metabolomics. The funding may be used to provide student prizes, travel awards or catering for small events such as symposia, workshops, seminars and short-courses. The society may also sponsor larger conferences where there is strategic opportunity to promote metabolomics science within other scientific disciplines. For more information, or to apply for funding, see:

11th Annual International Conference of the Metabolomics Society
Location: San Francisco, USA
Date: June 29 - July 2, 2015

Challenges and advances in the annotation and de novo identification of small molecules
Co-organised by the Metabolomics Society’s Metabolite Identification Task Group
Location: Gif-sur-Yvette, France
Date: October 23 - 24, 2014


Early-career Members Network (EMN)
The EMN is dedicated to and run by early-career scientists who are members of the Metabolomics Society and are from academia, government or industry. The network aims to provide a forum for metabolomics researchers at the start of their professional career. If you have questions, comments or suggestions, please, feel free to contact us by email:

The EMN is looking forward to welcoming three new committee members!
We have received many excellent applications from early career researchers working in metabolomics and who wish to join the EMN committee. We will announce the three successful new members joining this committee very shortly. If you missed the announcement to join the EMN committee, but would like to play an active role in the EMN, please contact us.

EMN conference report
MetaboMeeting, held in London on 10th-12th September, was attended by two of the EMN committee members, Gabriel and Justin. The three days were filled with talks on different aspects of metabolomics, from bioinformatic tools such as MetExplore ( that uses annotated metabolomics data sets for pathway analysis to an excellent presentation by Professor Elaine Holmes on personalized medicine using metabolomics approaches. The conference took place in The Royal Institution, an iconic building in the UK scientific history, as prominent scientists such as Faraday introduced many scientific concepts here that are now widespread. A small museum in the basement displays many of these findings, like the element sodium (Na), and explains their importance to science and the general public: worth a short visit! The famous Christmas lectures also take place in the same lecture hall where the EMN committee member Justin van der Hooft presented his work on using fragmentation approaches to analyse acylcarnitine profiles in human urine. His presentation was part of a complete afternoon session of early-career scientists, where Andrew Southam from the University of Birmingham, UK, was awarded for his talk on lipidomics studies for unravelling the role of drugs in disruption of tumour cell de novo lipogenesis.
EMN asks you:
The EMN would like to know your opinion on workshop topics for which you would come to San Francisco in 2015! After successful workshops in Tsuruoka this year, we are looking for new exciting topics. Moreover, we are planning to organize webinars and would like to know what you are interested in signing up for. Speak up and send us feedback at! To facilitate your feedback we present two questions here that we would like to have your opinions on; however, all input is welcome!

1.  What kind of workshop topics would make you book a (return) flight to San Francisco to attend the Metabolomics 2015 meeting?

2.  What style of webinars are you expecting?
•    Lectures/Mini presentations (opportunity to discuss topics about the basic sciences and applications of metabolomics)
•    Debate Sessions (Opportunity for two speakers to give brief presentations on topics such as, but not limited to, ‘to normalise or not?’, ‘to use heat maps or not?’ and ‘GC vs. LC’)
•    Training workshops (Informal/ formal training sessions on practical aspects and protocols used within metabolomics)
•    Ad hoc sessions (Opportunity for early career post docs to present work and receive feedback from metabolomics community)

Metabolomics Society Membership News for 2014
A reminder for all current members that your 2014 membership term will expire December 31st and we will start to send requests for next year’s membership dues sometime next month. If you are considering joining the Metabolomics Society as a new member, you will also be able to sign up from November onwards for the 2015 membership term giving you the full year of fabulous opportunities and benefits. In addition, for the third year in a row, you will receive an Early-bird registration discount for taking prompt action on your renewal notice or new membership. Please stay tuned for upcoming announcements!


Australian & New Zealand Metabolomics Network (ANZMN)
Metabolomics Australia at the University of Melbourne, in conjunction with The Australia and New Zealand Metabolomics Network is running a 4-day beginners practical workshop on metabolomics. It will be hosted by Metabolomics Australia at the University of Melbourne from October 28 – 31, 2014 (inclusive) and will consist of 2 analytical and 2 bioinformatic days, each comprising theory lectures and practical components. There will be a range of speakers from the Australian Metabolomics community (including Ute Roessner and Falk Schreiber) as well as an international guest speaker, Assistant Professor David Broadhurst (University of Alberta, Canada).

For more information and to keep up to date with news and developments please refer to the conference website at which will be updated regularly in the coming weeks. For the students out there, the Metabolomics Society is sponsoring 3 x 500 USD travel awards for student members of the Society to attend this workshop.

NB: other upcoming metabolomics events in the Asia-Pacific region include the Merlion Metabolomics Workshop in Singapore in November ( and the Australian Lipid Meeting to be held in Wollongong, New South Wales, in early December (

Australian & New Zealand Metabolomics Network


Metabolomics journal, Vol. 10, Issue 5, October 2014
See the latest issue of our journal at:

In addition to the many excellent research papers, this issue contains the following contributions on the Metabolomics Society pages:

•    Announcement: Metabolomics Society 2014 Metabolomics Publication Awards

•    News: Metabolomics continues to flourish: highlights from the 2014 Metabolomics Society Conference by Ute Roessner and Robert D. Hall

Stay abreast of the latest metabolomics news via the Twitter feed on the front page of the website. Also you can follow us on
Twitter: Metabolomics Society @MetabolomicsSoc and Metabolomics journal @Metabolomics. And you can visit us on Facebook.

Software Spotlight

Metabolomics Spotlight

Mapping Genetic Influences on Human Metabolism

Feature article contributed by Robert P. Mohney, Metabolon, Inc., USA, and Suzanne Elvidge, Pharmawrite, UK

The metabolome, which describes all the small molecule metabolites in a single organism or sample, provides a snapshot of an organisms' metabolic status at that particular moment. Combining the power of metabolic profiles with the genetic blueprint created by genome-wide association studies (GWAS) has allowed Metabolon and its collaborators to create an atlas of genetic influences on human blood metabolites [1, 2]. This atlas will allow researchers to understand more about the impact of genetic polymorphisms on inborn errors of metabolism and on metabolically-related genetic disorders, potentially leading to new diagnostics and treatments and new applications for existing drugs.

Metabolomics and Genomics: Making the Links

Metabolomics is the use of sensitive screening platforms such as liquid-phase chromatography and gas chromatography-coupled mass spectrometry (LC/MS and GC/MS) to measure all of the metabolites present in a given sample. The resulting metabolic profile can provide a wide variety of information about the system under study, since metabolites change in response to environmental stimuli, lifestyle changes, diseases and drug treatments.

Metabolomics can also identify changes derived from genetic polymorphisms. In fact, there is a clear link between genomics and metabolomics because genes code for proteins, many of which have metabolic roles in the cell. As such, the metabolic profile can be seen as a set of surrogate markers of an individual's genotype and phenotype.

Focusing on changes in metabolites based on genetic polymorphisms can help researchers find biomarkers that are important in drug discovery and development. These biomarkers could also be important in diagnostics, as the changes in the metabolic profile caused by the polymorphisms could be detected before symptoms develop. While genetic testing may just provide a yes/no answer, metabolic profiles can provide a fuller picture, potentially giving more detail about prognosis and opening up a route to predictive personalized medicine. This could be particularly useful in population screening and patient categorization.

Integrating metabolomics with other 'omics' technologies, including genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics, can provide in-depth information where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is the rationale behind the creation of the atlas of the genetic influences on human metabolism.

Creating the Atlas

The atlas of genetic influences on human blood metabolites [1] was created to help to gain a better understanding of the role of inherited genetic changes in metabolism. These findings could help researchers learn more about metabolic disease, leading to the development of novel treatments.

To create the atlas, a team of researchers from universities, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies combined Metabolon's high-throughput metabolic profiling platforms and expertise with data from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on thousands of healthy individuals. This project is believed to be the most comprehensive investigation of genetic influences on human metabolism to date.

Using LC/MS and GC/MS, the researchers characterized metabolic profiles from 7,824 European adults from the KORA (Kooperative Gesundheitsforschung in der Region Augsburg) and TwinsUK datasets. The profiles included 529 metabolites, with most representing eight key metabolic pathway groups (amino acids, carbohydrates, cofactors and vitamins, energy, lipids, nucleotides, peptides and xenobiotic metabolism).

The team then created genetic maps of the areas of the genome that had already been linked with a wide range of metabolic traits. By analyzing around 2.1 million SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms; changes of a single nucleotide of the genetic code) and combining genetic and metabolite information using mathematical modelling, the GWAS meta-analysis created a network view of genetic-metabolic interactions and linked 145 SNPs with metabolism, including 84 previously undescribed interactions (Figures 1 and 2).

Click on the thumbnail image below to see a zoomable PDF version of the images.

          rendering of a subset of genetic-metabolic interactions
          identified in 7800 individuals

Figure 1. A Cytoscape rendering of a subset of genetic-metabolic interactions identified in 7824 individuals from two cohorts reported in [1] is shown. Each interaction is comprised of metabolites (ovals) and/or genetic loci (diamond) identified via partial correlation coefficients (metabolite:metabolite) or genome-wide significant association (metabolite:genetic locus). The full network view is provided in digital form at

Click on the thumbnail image below to see a zoomable PDF version of the images.

The medical and
          pharmacological relevance of metabolomic associations

Figure 2. The medical and pharmacological relevance of metabolomic associations identified in [1] is shown. Metabolic loci were classified on the basis of being targets, metabolizing enzymes, or transporters of FDA-approved drugs, overlap with inborn errors of metabolism, or overlap with complex trait and disease loci. New associations reported for the first time in [1] are highlighted in bold. For full details, see [1] and associated Supplementary Tables. Additional information is available at the supporting online website:

This is the first comprehensive and high-resolution reference map of human metabolic relationships and their genetic influences, and it will help scientists and researchers to visualise the important genetic associations between metabolites and SNPs. The atlas is available for online viewing and download, along with extensive biochemical and biological annotations and a database of genetic associations and their biological, medical and pharmacological annotations.

Key Discoveries and Takeaways
Metabolon: Mapping the Metabolome

Metabolon is a pioneer in the area of metabolomics with more than a decade of experience in the field. The company's technologies include the DiscoveryHD4™ metabolomics platform, its TrueMass® Lipomic Focused Panels platform, which is specific to lipids, and bioinformatics tools including its MetaboLync™ Client Portal and Lipomics Surveyor® tool.

Metabolon's comprehensive DiscoveryHD4™ platform, backed by an extensive chemical reference library, has been used to rapidly identify biomarkers and to elucidate complex biological pathways and processes in complex and rare diseases.

  1. Shin, S.Y., et al., An atlas of genetic influences on human blood metabolites. Nature Genetics, 2014. 46(6): p. 543-50.
  2. Suhre, K., et al., Human metabolic individuality in biomedical and pharmaceutical research. Nature, 2011. 477(7362): p. 54-60.

Please note: If you know of any metabolomics research programs, software, databases, statistical methods, meetings, workshops, or training sessions that we should feature in future issues of this newsletter, please email Ian Forsythe at



MetaboInterviews features interviews with prominent researchers in the field of metabolomics. The aim of these interviews is to shed light on metabolomics researchers around the world and give them an opportunity to share their metabolomics story. In this issue, we feature an interview with David Broadhurst.

David Broadhurst

Assistant Professor of Applied Biostatistics, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta

 David Broadhurst

Dr. David Broadhurst, born in Chester, UK, holds a first class honors degree in Electronic Engineering, an MSc in Medical Informatics, and a PhD in the "Application of Artificial Neural Networks and Evolutionary Algorithms to Metabolic Profiling". He has been an active member of the metabolomics community for the last 18 years, where he is a recognized expert in design of experiments, signal processing, biostatistics, and machine learning. David worked for an extended period as a post-doctoral research fellow developing large-scale clinical metabolomics protocols alongside Dr. Warwick Dunn, at the University of Manchester as part of Professor Douglas Kell’s Bioanalytical Sciences Group. In 2009, he moved to Cork University Maternity Hospital, Ireland, to investigate pre-symptomatic metabolite biomarkers predictive of major pregnancy diseases. In January 2011, David took up his current position as Assistant Professor of Applied Biostatistics in the department of Medicine, at the University of Alberta, Canada, where he is scientific lead and academic coordinator for a range of clinical metabolomics, and integrated polyomic, personalized medicine projects. His current research primarily focuses on developing validated parsimonious prediction algorithms, combining novel feature selection algorithms, precise experimental design, and robust quality assurance procedures.

Metabolomics Interview (MN, MetaboNews; DB, David Broadhurst)

MN: How did you get involved in metabolomics?

DB: My introduction to metabolomics was pure serendipity. Whilst studying for my M.Sc. in Medical Informatics & Information Engineering (a precursor to Systems Biology), at St. Thomas’s Hospital Medical School, London, I was introduced to the subject of Machine Learning (ML) and notably Artificial Neural Networks (ANN). After some intellectual rumination, I naïvely decided my future research career lay in investigating further the link between biological and mathematical systems, principally ANNs, Evolutionary Algorithms, Emergent Behavior, and multivariate data clustering based on the principles of Growing Cell Structures ( Upon completing my M.Sc., I had reason to visit to the Department of Computer Science at the University of Aberystwyth, and, by sheer chance, I was introduced to Professor Douglas Kell (then at the Institute of Biological Sciences). With an exceptional demonstration of blind faith, Professor Kell offered to fund my PhD with the rather bombastic statement (paraphrased from memory): “do absolutely anything you like as long as it has some application to my research into simultaneous measurement of bio-chemicals using mass spectrometry, and their role in functional classification of biological systems”. At this time, 1993, I did not have the foggiest idea what Douglas was talking about. Remember at this time the terms metabolome and metabolomics had not yet been defined. Even though these pivotal terms were not mentioned in published literature until 1998 (, with hindsight, it was clear that Professor Kell’s research group were performing a rudimentary form of untargeted metabolic profiling back in 1993. It was here at the University of Aberystwyth that I shared a lab bench with Royston Goodacre (now a highly respected figure in the metabolomics community, and editor of the Metabolomics Journal, but then a postdoctoral fellow) who seemed to spend most of his time exploding biological samples with his pyrolysis mass spectrometer, but was also a great mentor with respect to applying my data analysis methods. In the adjacent office, Pedro Mendes was writing the first version of GEPASI (, and Bjorn Alsberg was developing some of the first Chemometrics software. So “as a dwarf standing on the shoulders of giants” I learned my trade, and although I still have a keen interest in computational beauty of nature, and self-organizing biological systems, I switched my emphasis toward applied rather than pure research. Hopefully, in a small way, I have helped push the field of metabolomics forward with my ongoing collaborations, and maybe even to a higher level of scientific/statistical rigor over the last 18 years.

MN: What are some of the most exciting aspects of your work in metabolomics?

DB: Today, I primarily work in Clinical Metabolomics, where the most exciting aspect of my job is the opportunity to interact with world experts in diverse fields of medical science (from Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). I get to be inspired, educated, and humbled by highly motivated clinical scientists who are tirelessly trying to make a positive impact on patient care. In return, my extremely rewarding job is to inspire both these experts, and also more importantly the next generation of clinical scientists to get involved in metabolomics, and systems biology at large. If I am suitably persuasive, I then attempt to facilitate their research efforts, and educate them in the ways of undertaking rigorous clinical metabolomics experiments. My favourite quote at the moment is by Samuel Johnson (circa 18th century): “A horse that can count to ten is an exceptional horse, not an exceptional mathematician”. The obvious interpretation of this quote can be projected onto any of fundamental specialties within of our multidisciplinary science. Metabolomics is a team sport needing experts in every area. In my daily job I try to effectively coordinate these disparate scientific disciplines with expert collaborators around the world; my expertise in Design of Experiments and Biostatistics is pivotal to these efforts. My excitement comes via reflected glory. I enjoy the success of other people’s projects, knowing that a project has been performed at the highest level possible.

              Biochemistry, Informatics, Biology

MN: What key metabolomics initiatives are you pursuing at your research centre or institute?

DB: “If all a man has is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail” – Anon.

Although my Ph.D. focused on adapting self-organizing artificial neural networks and genetic algorithms to optimize chemometric data analysis, I have slowly but surely evolved into a rather old-school biostatistician. Metabolomics is clearly a data-driven science; however, I do not believe in so-called “hypothesis-free experiments”. There is a prevailing presumption that by simply analyzing an arbitrary number of biological samples, taken at a single time point, from any given perturbed biological system, followed by the application of complex machine learning algorithms, then reliable biological information will simply "drop-out". This is rarely true! Based on my personal observations, generally, very little forethought about the design of metabolomics studies is undertaken. Issues such as appropriate sample size, biological sample selection, prospective vs. retrospective studies, cross-sectional vs. longitudinal studies, repeated measures, appropriate analytical platform, quality control, statistical reporting methodology, experimental validation, and appropriate post hoc statistical analysis, should take precedent over the apparent simplicity of ad hoc sample selection, convenient platform availability, and computationally intensive, often myopic, unprincipled data analysis.

So my current research initiatives amount to a three-pronged attack on current dogma. First, I continue to research the application and optimization of diverse multivariate modeling techniques (parametric & non-parametric linear models, decision trees, machine learning, Structural Equation Modeling, Multilevel random-effects models, etc.). Second, in the spirit of Leo Breiman’s seminal paper “Statistical Modeling: The Two Cultures” (Statistical Science 2001, Vol. 16, No. 3, 199–231), I attempt to join the new and old data analysis cultures, within the framework of metabolomics, combining the rigor of classical biostatistics with the highly creative nature of modern machine learning methods. That said, the intellectual conflicts around the Rashomon Effect, Occam’s Razor, and Bellman’s curse (or blessing) of dimensionality remain unresolved; however, the bigger the toolbox the better the science. Finally, together with other members of the Metabolomics Society (Data Quality Task Group), I plan to promote and educate existing and, more importantly, junior members of the metabolomics community with regard to the standardization and adherence to clear quality control and quality assurance protocols. Improving education regarding the need for careful and rigorously documented design of experiments, such that high quality and repeatable metabolomic studies will result in precise and scientifically legitimate biological inference.

One recent project I have been particularly proud of is the development of software to assess metabolomic data quality and potentially correct systematic experimental bias using pooled quality control samples. This work grew out of collaboration with Rick Dunn (University of Birmingham) and Ian Wilson (Imperial College London) during the Husermet Project ( led by Douglas Kell (University of Manchester), and then further developed with Mark Viant, Jennifer Kirwan, and Rob Davidson (University of Birmingham). The software, QC-RSC (, is not officially publically available; however, it has been successfully applied to many metabolomics studies – so watch this space!


MN: What is happening in your country in terms of metabolomics?

DB: Academic metabolomics initiatives in Canada are quite fragmented; however, there is an obvious epicentre at The Metabolomics Innovation Centre (TMIC,, University of Alberta, led by Dr. David Wishart. Dr. Wishart’s group also hosts various high-profile databases including the Human Metabolome Database ( and DrugBank (, as well as the popular web based data analysis applications MetaboAnalyst ( and ROCCET ( That said there are many small academic metabolomics labs across the country (Universities of Calgary, McMaster, Toronto, McGill, Montreal, Concordia, Sherbrooke). There are too many researchers to name individually, but some stellar research is being performed; however, I believe Canada could greatly benefit from a more cohesive and closely linked national metabolomics community, possibly based on the successful model in place in Australia ( I believe that rather than an extremely centralized research model; a more distributed network of collaborating laboratories should be promoted. This can only produce a more rich, diverse, and fertile ground-level expertise from which future national initiatives could grow and flourish.

Translational Biomarker Discovery

MN: How do you see your work in metabolomics being applied today or in the future?

DB: The Leo Breiman paper, that I mentioned earlier, makes the following final remark: “The roots of statistics, as in science, lie in working with data and checking theory against data. I hope in this century our field will return to its roots. There are signs that this hope is not illusory. Over the last ten years, there has been a noticeable move toward statistical work on real world problems and reaching out by statisticians toward collaborative work with other disciplines. I believe this trend will continue and, in fact, has to continue if we are to survive as an energetic and creative field.”

That quote was written in 2001, and I feel that we are still a long way from achieving Professor Breiman’s goals. Unfortunately, even in the 21st century, post-genomic, data-driven era, insufficient emphasis is placed on statistical education, development and utilization of highly qualified statistical researchers. Conversely, the proliferation of the practice of using off-the-shelf, point-and-click, data modeling software (free or otherwise), usually thrust upon trainee researchers, who have no computational or statistical background, and no serious statistical mentorship, is at epidemic levels. Surely this state of affairs should not be allowed to continue. Existing and new methodologies must go hand-in-hand with high quality education and local expert mentorship.

So, to answer the question, hopefully through the Metabolomics Society and like-minded people, in the future we can generate sufficient momentum to reverse the emphasis of technology over technique that still prevails in metabolomics, particularly in funding allocation.

MN: As you see it, what are metabolomics' greatest strengths?

DB: Metabolomics’ greatest strength is cheap, fast, untargeted hypothesis generation, providing a very sensitive and dynamic measure of a biological systems phenotype, which can then be used to suggest future avenues of research into systems function, or be translated into robust biomarker technology. Currently, semi-targeted metabolomics is too limited in scope. Even though it provides approximate quantification of a clearly identified set of metabolites, the number and uniqueness of these metabolites across different platforms is small (hundreds rather than thousands). Conversely, untargeted metabolomics has much broader scope, but at the cost of lack of direct quantification, high levels of noise, and difficult identification. This is why I specifically state ‘hypothesis generation’. Once chemical features are identified, they need to be translated to a targeted platform (e.g., QqQ targeted analyses), before large-scale implementation or any truly meaningful biological measurements can be made.

MN: What do you see as the greatest barriers for metabolomics?

DB: First, lack of imagination both from funding bodies and practitioners. Funding bodies need to stop looking at metabolomics as a ‘fishing expedition’ and practitioners need to start designing more interesting studies. Single time-point (cross-sectional) retrospective case-control studies are very dull, and are not particularly informative. The literature is swamped with this kind of research. My personal interests are in prospective personalized metabolite trajectories. These could be natural personalized changes over time (e.g., over the gestation period of normal pregnancy) or time course effects due to system perturbation, or stress. In the case of mammals, individuals will have their own personal metabolome trajectory. The potential for developing these types of study is extremely exciting.

Second, there is an unfortunate prevalence of poor quality science within the metabolomics community. Metabolomics technology is relatively cheap to buy, and samples are cheap to run, but this is not an excuse for cheap science. The costs are just inverted. Because of the sensitivity of the metabolome, sample collection, biobanking, and preparation have to be particularly consistent and rigorous. Also the changes in sensitivity of instruments are often underrated. Great care has to be taken in the design of experiments and observing within and between batch effects.

MN: What improvements, technological or otherwise, need to take place for metabolomics to really take off?

DB: (a) Significant improvements in within and between laboratory instrument repeatability, even on small-scale studies.
(b) Standardized quality assured global protocols to allow accurate inter-laboratory comparisons.
(c) Improved in silico metabolite identification and/or faster translation from hypothesized to definitively identified metabolite.

MN: How does the future look in terms of funding for metabolomics?

DB: I think this depends on which country you live in. Generally, I think researchers need to stop competing and start collaborating in order to persuade public and private funding bodies that metabolomics is worth further serious investment. This is already starting to happen in the US, UK, and parts of continental Europe, thanks to substantial government support in developing infrastructure. Growing research efforts in Asia, in particular China, such as huge companies like BGI-Shenzhen moving into metabolomics, means that our global research footprint is large and rapidly growing. I think a concerted effort to generate global collaborative projects will take us closer to producing the results that have been promised for so long. Unfortunately, universities are now run as businesses, and the demands for successful spin-out companies are high. A few high profile translational medicine successes would open the funding floodgates.

MN: What role can metabolomics standards play?

DB: Standards are the backbone of any science. At the moment the metabolomics community is self-policed; however, eventual appeasement of external regulatory bodies will be necessary, particularly in the medical and food sector of metabolomic research. Equally, a consensus set of reporting standards allow rapid assessment of research, which is essential in high throughput, multi-disciplinary science. The quality of our science is directly linked to the funding resources. If the research community at large (e.g., specific clinical, biological, plant, environmental journals) is swamped with poor quality metabolomic publications that are not reproducible, or spin-out companies that rapidly fail, then the credibility of metabolomics, as a science, will crumble.

MN: Do you have any other comments that you wish to share about metabolomics?

DB: Some people may read this interview and feel that I am very negative about the current and future state of metabolomics. This is not true. However, I often play devil’s advocate, for the sake of debate, and, in this instance, I purposefully try to balance out those influential researchers with an overly positive view of the current state of play. My argument is that it should take rather a lot of high quality and convergent scientific evidence before we can be sure of a “scientific fact”. In metabolomics, there are far too many premature exclamations of success, particularly in biomarker discovery, with poorly reported methodology, and without independent validation. Science thrives on constantly refining its own methods. Metabolomics should not rest in trying to improve all aspects of its component methodologies. I feel the future of metabolomics is very bright. I have in no way lost faith in the potential for metabolomics to have a massive impact on the scientific community, particularly as a tool for hypothesis generation. However, care must be taken, and protocols followed. I feel the metabolomics society will play a pivotal role in this endeavour. So I encourage everyone to become a member and participate in rigorous debate to unite the community. To quote Henry Ford “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Biomarker Beacon

Biomarker Beacon

Feature article contributed by Ian Forsythe, Editor, MetaboNews, Department of Computing Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Metabolomics is an emerging field that is complementary to other omics sciences and that is gaining increasing interest across all disciplines. Because of metabolomics' unique advantages, it is now being applied in functional genomics, integrative and systems biology, pharmacogenomics, and biomarker discovery for drug development and therapy monitoring. A substantial number of biomarkers are small molecules or metabolites (MW <1500 Da), which can be used for disease testing, drug testing, toxic exposure testing, and food consumption tracking. While standard clinical assays are limited in the number and type of compounds that can be detected, metabolomics measures many more compounds. Since a single compound is not always the best biomarker (diagnostic, prognostic, or predictive), healthcare practitioners can use metabolomic information about multiple compounds to make better medical decisions. Global metabolic profiling is now being used to determine clinical biomarkers in assessing the pathophysiological health status of patients.

In the following recent study, a metabolomics-based approach was used to identify biomarkers associated with impaired glucose tolerance.
Cobb J, Eckhart A, Perichon R, Wulff J, Mitchell M, Adam KP, Wolfert R, Button E, Lawton K, Elverson R, Carr B, Sinnott M, Ferrannini E. A Novel Test for IGT Utilizing Metabolite Markers of Glucose Tolerance. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2014 Sep 26. pii: 1932296814553622. [Epub ahead of print] [PMID: 25261439]

In recent years, health care practitioners rely decreasingly on the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) for the diagnosis of patients with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT). In recent studies, researchers used metabolic profiling to identify a number of metabolites that are associated with dysglycemia and type 2 diabetes. In this paper, the research team used quantitative assays for 23 candidate biomarker metabolites and statistical analysis to compare fasting plasma samples from patients with IGT and normal glucose tolerance (NGT). They developed a model based on a set of metabolites (glucose, α-hydroxybutyric acid, β-hydroxybutyric acid, 4-methyl-2-oxopentanoic acid, linoleoylglycerophosphocholine, oleic acid, serine, and vitamin B5) to differentiate between IGT and NGT patients. This metabolite-based test may prove to be superior to OGTT and eventually replace it as a means of identifying patients with IGT.
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Metabolomics Current Contents

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Metabolomics Events

Metabolomics Events

23-24 Oct 2014

Challenges and advances in the annotation and de novo identification of small molecules of biological origin
Venue: Gif-sur-Yvette, France

This is the first in a series of workshops to promote the emergence of a community interested in developing and standardizing methods and reporting guidelines for the characterization of natural products and the annotation and identification of other small molecules including metabolites. Metabolite annotation and identification is central to the study of metabolism in many different organisms and is of prime importance in the discovery of bioactive products. A progressive merger between the disciplines applied in natural products research and metabolomics studies is expected and will profit from a common effort in developing and sharing methods, expertise and reporting guidelines.

For more details, please visit

28-31 Oct 2014

Metabolomics Beginners Workshop
Venue: Room G26, School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Australia (

Since 2008 Metabolomics Australia (MA) has been conducting workshops to inform, educate and  promote the metabolomics discipline. Aligning with the Australian and New Zealand Metabolomics Network (ANZMN) demonstrates the gaining interest and higher profile of the discipline. We are pleased to acknowledge the generous sponsorship of the International Metabolomics Society to contribute to the program and ensure the continual educational program to the Science community.

MA at the University of Melbourne (UM) along with the Australia and New Zealand Metabolomics Network (ANZMN) is running a 4-day beginners workshop on metabolomics. This workshop focuses on an analytical component (Tuesday 28th October and Wednesday 29th October) and data processing and statistical analysis of metabolomics data (Thursday 30th October and Friday 31st October) obtained through GC-MS and LC-MS analytical platforms.

The workshop is open to all researchers from academic, government and commercial organisations.  This workshop would assist researchers working in the area of metabolomics, as well as researchers planning on using metabolomics in any future studies.

Travel awards:
3x Metabolomics Society $US 500 travel awards for interstate/international student attendees
*Students must be members of the Metabolomics Society
*Awards will be based on a 200-word abstract of the student's research project & a two page CV

Cost and Registration:

For more details, please visit

29-30 Oct 2014

Clinical Applications of Mass Spectrometry
Venue: Barcelona, Spain

With the ability to measure multiple analytes with high sensitivity, often faster and more cheaply than other methods, mass spectrometry is becoming an attractive method of analysis for the clinic. Featuring an array of leading researchers and clinicians, SELECTBIO’s Clinical Applications of Mass Spectrometry conference aims to provide you with an insight into the latest developments in this area.

As the analytical power of mass spec is realised, the range of applications using this technology continues to expand. Focus at this meeting will be given to both traditional & emerging uses of MS in the clinic. Hot topics to be covered include developments of MS in applications ranging from vitamin D detection to newborn blood spot analysis. Attending this event will provide you with excellent opportunities for networking with like minded peers, helping you to build new relationships and optimise your workflow.

Running alongside the conference will be an exhibition covering the latest technological advances and associated services from leading solution providers within this field. Registered delegates will also have access to the co-located Food Analysis Congress, ensuring a cost effective trip.

Keynote Speakers:
  • Donald Hunt, Professor, University of Virginia
  • Haroun Shah, Head, Molecular Identification Services, Department for Bioanalysis and Horizon Technologies, Public Health England

For more details, please visit

29-30 Oct 2014

Food Analysis Congress
Safety, Quality, Novel Technologies
Venue: Barcelona, Spain

SELECTBIO’s inaugural Food Analysis Congress aims to present the latest developments in food analysis technologies, in response to the increasing demand for rapid and efficient food safety and quality testing.

Focus will be given to advances in both the analysis of natural food allergens and toxins, as well as contaminants introduced through processing and packaging. Points for discussion will also include the ongoing issue of food traceability and efforts to reduce food fraud. Attending this event will provide you with excellent opportunities for networking with like minded peers, helping you to find solutions and build collaborations.

Running alongside the conference will be an exhibition covering the latest technological advances and associated services from leading solution providers within this field. Registered delegates will also have access to the co-located Clinical Applications of Mass Spectrometry track, ensuring a cost effective trip.

For more details, please visit

10-11 Nov 2014

Metabolomic Approaches: Advanced Analytical Tools
Challenges, Perspectives and Applications
Venue: Area della Ricerca (CNR) Istituto di Ricerca Pediatrica (IRP), Corso Stati Uniti, 4 – 35127 Padova, ltaly

lnvited Speakers:
Anisha Wijeyesekera (London Imperial College, United Kingdom)
Oscar Yanes (Centre for Omic Sciences, Spain)
Ron Wehrens (Wageningen UR, The Netherlands)
Matteo Stocchero (S-IN Soluzioni Informatiche, ltaly)

Download the Event Flyer

For further details, please visit

13 Nov 2014

5th Danish Symposium on Metabolomics
Venue: Auditorium A2-70.03, University of Copenhagen, Faculty Science, Thorvaldsensvej 40, Frederiksberg C
Date: Thursday 13th November 8.30 – 16.30

Organizers: Nikoline J. Nielsen and Jan H. Christensen, University of Copenhagen and Kim Højlys-Larsen, Symphogen.

Metabolomics concerns the comprehensive characterization of small molecule metabolites in biological systems. It can provide an overview of the metabolic status and global biochemical events associated with a cellular or biological system.

The main topic of the 5th Danish Symposium on Metabolomics is metabolomics research in Denmark; peak annotation and identification. We encourage researcher from Danish institutions to submit an abstract for oral presentation of 15 min duration. As last year we will include a poster session and we urge participants to bring posters with metabolomics related research. Oral presentation and poster abstracts should be submitted to no later than 27th October.

For further details, please consult the event flyer.

14 Nov 2014

1st Nordic Symposium on Multidimensional Chromatography
Venue: Auditorium A2-70.03, University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Science, Thorvaldsensvej 40, Frederiksberg C
Date: Friday 14th November 8.30 – 16.30

Organizers: Jan H. Christensen and Nikoline J Nielsen, University of Copenhagen, Tuulia Hyotylainen, Steno Diabetes Center A/S, and Asger B. Hansen, Haldor Topsøe A/S.

The peak capacity of one-dimensional chromatographic systems such as LC, GC, CE and SFC is often insufficient to provide baseline separation of compounds in complex mixtures such as in environmental, biological, petrochemical, and food samples, but also in the pharmaceutical industry one-dimensional systems are often not able to provide sufficient separation of impurities. Multidimensional chromatography allows separation of complex mixtures by using multiple columns with different stationary phases. These columns are coupled with an interface that allows the fractions from the first column to be selectively transferred to other columns for additional separation. The main topics of the 1st Nordic Symposium on Multidimensional Chromatography cover the fundamentals of comprehensive multidimensional chromatography, where all fractions from the first (or second) column are transferred to the second (or third) column for additional separation. Four international experts will give 6 hours of lectures.

For further details, please consult the event flyer.

17-18 Nov 2014

Waters Metabolic Profiling Deminar in collaboration with Imperial College London
Venue: London, UK

Waters is happy to announce, in collaboration with Imperial College London, a special 1 & 1/2 day metabolic profiling event.

On day one attendees will meet at Heathrow for lunch and an introduction to the collaboration between Imperial College London & Waters. Guests will be transferred to the MRC NIHR National Phenome Centre where they will have the opportunity for a guided tour to see large scale metabolic phenotyping in action.

Day two will take place at the Imperial International Phenome Training Centre (IIPTC), Imperial College South Kensington campus, where participants will listen to guest speakers from Imperial College London and interact with both Imperial & Waters scientists who run the state of the art instrumentation through a series of planned interactive laboratory workshops.

In addition, registrants are encouraged to stay on for a few more days and participate in the “Metabolic Phenotyping in Disease Diagnosis & Personalised Health Care” course hosted by Imperial College London at the Imperial International Phenome Training Centre. This course offers seminars in the techniques and applications of LC-MS, GC-MS, MS imaging and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy in the field of metabolic profiling, as well as metabolite identification and multivariate statistics. This is complemented by hands-on workshops focusing on data analysis using statistical techniques such as PCA and O2-PLSDA.

Learn more on Waters metabolomics and lipidomics.

For further details, please visit the event website.

18-21 Nov 2014

Workshop in Metabolic Phenotyping in Disease Diagnosis & Personalised Health Care
Venue: Imperial College London, London, UK

A lecture based course detailing an overview of metabolic phenotyping including the use of NMR spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometry, with insights from the experts at Imperial College and collaborators from all over the world. Lectures will cover data acquisition and analysis with some advanced statistical workshops for more hands-on participation for attendees. There will also be examples of real life applications from the research at Imperial College and their collaborators.

Download the full programme here: Metabolic Profiling Disease Diagnosis

For further details, please visit the workshop website.

19-20 Nov 2014

Separation Science Asia 2014
Venue: Biopolis, Singapore

Taking place at Biopolis, Singapore this two-day conference offers a new format for 2014. Over the two days of the event, key separation science experts will provide comprehensive, tutorial-style presentations covering a combination of best practice, troubleshooting and method development. Each topic will be broken down into easy-to-follow manageable sections allowing attendees to build up their understanding in a logical and effective manner over the two day conference.

You will gain valuable practical, technical and solutions-based knowledge for getting the most out of your HPLC, GC, MS and sample preparation methods, improving your skills, knowledge and job productivity. In addition, you will be able to interact directly with these technology leaders at the conference:

Click here for more details on the programme.

For further details, please visit the conference website.

19-21 Nov 2014

Merlion Metabolomics Workshop Singapore 2014
Developing Metabolomics Platform Technologies through Singapore-French Research Alliance
Venue: University Town, National University of Singapore

This Merlion Metabolomics Workshop will leverage on the strong infrastructure towards applying metabolomics technology in environment, food science and technology, and human health at National University of Singapore (NUS) (acting through NUS Environmental Research Institute (NERI)) and the well-established expertise in the area of nutrition, toxicology at the National Research Institute of Agronomy (acting through MetaboHUB), to encourage technical exchanges and catalyze the development of research collaboration in the field of metabolomics between Singapore and France. This workshop also provides opportunities for the knowledge and technologies developed in Europe to be applied in the Asian context.

This 3-day workshop features three important areas of metabolomics research, namely, Environment, Food Science and Technology, and Human Health. Eight tracks, including two sessions for young researchers to share their research findings, will facilitate knowledge sharing and discussions over 2.5 days during the workshop. A half day technical site visit to research and/or manufacturing facilities will be arranged for a selected group of participants. Prominent scientists in metabolomics from Asia-Pacific region will also be invited to the workshop.

For further details, please visit the workshop website.

3-5 Dec 2014

2nd Australian Lipid Meeting
Venue: University of Wollongong (Innovation Campus), Wollongong, NSW, Australia

We are pleased to announce the 2nd Australian Lipid Meeting, which will be held at the University of Wollongong's Innovation Campus from 3-5 December, 2014.

While the first meeting focused on lipidomics we have expanded the scope for the second meeting to cover all aspects of lipid research. Planned topics include:
  • Imaging
  • Botany
  • Nutrition
  • Health and Disease
  • Technical Developments and Methodology
We look forward to seeing you in "The Gong".

  • Open: 1 August, 2014
  • Early bird: Closes 28 October, 2014
For further details, please see the event flyer or visit

11-13 Dec 2014

2nd ICAN (Institute of Cardiometabolism and Nutrition) Conference Series 2014
Venue: St James and Albany Hotel, Paris, France
Diabetes, obesity, and heart diseases

Further Information:
Download the Flyer.

For further details, visit the conference website.

28 Jun to 2 Jul 2015

Metabolomics 2015: 11th Annual International Conference of the Metabolomics Society
The Official Annual Meeting of the Metabolomics Society
Venue: San Francisco, USA

You are invited to join us for Metabolomics 2015, the official annual meeting of the Metabolomics Society.

This stunning world-class venue will host the most exciting metabolomics conference of 2015. Your host institution, the University of California, Davis, will gladly welcome scientists from all around the world to feel at home and relax while hearing of the latest innovations and breakthroughs in metabolomics.

Details to follow. Please check back soon!

Stay abreast of the latest Metabolomics Society news via the Twitter feed on the front page of the website ( Also you can follow us on Twitter: Metabolomics Society @MetabolomicsSoc and Metabolomics journal @Metabolomics. And you can visit us on Facebook.

For further details, visit

Please note: If you know of any metabolomics lectures, meetings, workshops, or training sessions that we should feature in future issues of this newsletter, please email Ian Forsythe (

Metabolomics Jobs

Metabolomics Jobs

This is a resource for advertising positions in metabolomics. If you have a job you would like posted in this newsletter, please email Ian Forsythe ( Job postings will be carried for a maximum of 4 issues (8 weeks) unless the position is filled prior to that date.

Jobs Offered

Job Title Employer Location Posted Closes Source
Research Officer (Metabolomics Australia)
University of Melbourne
Melbourne, Australia 1-Oct-2014
The Conversation Job Board
Post Doctorate RA - Metabolomics
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Richland, WA, United States 24-Sep-2014
Metabolomics Society Jobs
Post Doctorate - Cheminformatics
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Richland, WA, United States 24-Sep-2014
Metabolomics Society Jobs
Research Fellow - Metabolomics
Mayo Clinic
Rochester, MN, United States 15-Sep-2014

Mayo Clinic
Research Engineer in Metabolomics
The Roullier Group Dinard, France 11-Sep-2014

Réseau Français de Métabolomique et Fluxomique
Post-Doc Subcellular fluxomics in plant cells
Bordeaux, France 11-Sep-2014
Research Programmer
University of Alberta Edmonton, Canada 2-Sep-2014

University of Alberta
PhD Studentship
International Pregnancy Research Alliance (IPRA)
Chongqing, China 27-Aug-2014
Metabolomics Society Jobs
Mass Spectrometry Technician International Pregnancy Research Alliance (IPRA) Chongqing, China 27-Aug-2014 31-Dec-2014 Metabolomics Society Jobs
Analytical Scientist (Research & Development)
BIOCRATES Life Sciences AG
Innsbruck, Austria

BIOCRATES Life Sciences AG
Business Development Manager USA
BIOCRATES Life Sciences AG Innsbruck, Austria 1-Aug-2014
BIOCRATES Life Sciences AG

Jobs Wanted

This section is intended for very highly qualified individuals (e.g., lab managers, professors, directors, executives with extensive experience) who are seeking employment in metabolomics. We encourage these individuals to submit their position requests to Ian Forsythe ( Upon review, a limited number of job submissions will be selected for publication in the Jobs Wanted section.
  • Postdoctoral position in an international metabolomics research group where I will be able to gain valuable experience in all aspects of metabolomics to eventually be able to get my own group going: [Candidate's CV] [Candidate's LinkedIn Profile]


  • For Sale (ex-lease equipment): Waters Synapt G2 Mass Spectrometer (2010), including 3 months warranty by Waters.
    • LockSpray Source with ESI probe
    • NanoLockSpray with Universal sprayer
    • MaxEnt V4.1
    • Transform V4.1
    • Mass Lynx v4.1
    • Available with Ion Mobility Upgrade if required

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