September 2012

At the forefront with Avanti

The Shaws with Avanti employees 
The Shaws with Avanti employees. Image courtesy of Walter Shaw. 

The Shaws and Burgess say they are constantly exploring the next frontiers in lipid research. For example, on the side of the research-grade lipid products, the company is working on biologically active lipids, which are emerging as important molecules in cell function. On the pharmaceutical side, the company is exploring the use of lipids as bioactive ingredients in analgesics and anti-inflammatory agents. Since 2003, Avanti has been a licensed supplier of mass spectrometry lipid standards for the multi-institutional initiative called LIPID Metabolites and Pathways Strategy, or LIPID MAPS for short. LIPID MAPS aims to identify and quantitate the majority of lipids in mammalian cells, as well as to quantitate the changes in them in response to environmental and chemical signals.

In telling the story of how Avanti grew into the company it is today, Walter Shaw reflects on the moments that seem insignificant but change life’s course: “Just think, if this brother and sister born of incest hadn’t shown up in the emergency room with stomach cramps, we would have never had their blood to do the study. If I hadn’t been working on the blood of burn victims, went to Cleveland and called up Grand Island Biological, who knows what I would have been doing?”

But Shaw pays the biggest tribute to the moment when he treated a woman to a hamburger. He says, “If I hadn’t married Rowena, I can’t imagine where life would have taken me.”


Raj_MukhopadhyayRajendrani Mukhopadhyay ( is the senior science writer for ASBMB Today and the technical editor for The Journal of Biological Chemistry. Follow her on Twitter (

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  • Hi Rajendrani,

    It was a brilliantly written story. I met the the Shaws and Burgess at a Biophysical conference meeting a couple of years ago. They are very pleasant people and a pleasure to meet. One thing you left out of the story is how much Walt travels with Avanti. He is at so many conferences backing the Avanti brand. He is a rock star in the lipid world as the Rolling Stones are in the rock world.

    Gladly I have been using Avanti's products for well ten years in different aspects of lipid research from producing liposomes to working with Phospholipase. I am really excited to see the what will happen with LIPID MAPS consortium and the future of Avanti research after this. Perhaps one day researchers around the world will start ordering a very rare lipid that can prolong life.....

  • Wonderful story on a great adventure in life and science, on many levels. Avanti lipids have for years been one of the cornerstones of all my science.

  • Hi Rajendrani ,
    What a wonderful write up on Avanti and Dr. Walt Shaw -- super subject , a super star in the field and his team and a fantastic example of passion in science and it's turn to technology. You really captured an inspiring scientist ! Many thanks for your efforts on this . All the best , Charlie

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