Organic and Biological Analytical Chemistry Group


The OBiAChem Group (Organic and Biological Analytical Chemistry Group) is conducting method development for small molecules characterization. The group is specialized in the development of comprehensive multidimensional chromatographic methods hyphenated with mass spectrometry. One aspect of our work is the fundamental research, conducted for novel technologies development in sampling and characterization. We also develop analytical strategies for medical, forensic, food, and various industrial applications.

Logo OBIACHEM-ongoing projects

Ongoing projects

Several research projects are currently in the lab. They can be organized in different categories: Fundamental Research, Medical and Biochemical, Forensic and Archeology, Industrial applications, Environmental contaminant analysis, and Fundamental Research.

Medical and Biochemical

  • Exhaled air analysis: this project is a collaborative project with the pneumology and allergology unit of ULiege hospital (CHU). GC×GC-(HR)TOFMS is used for the characterization of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in human exhaled air (breath) samples. Such VOC profiles are further processed to identify biomarkers of cancer and lung diseases.
  • Cancer cell cultures: this project is a collaborative project with the histology and cytology lab of ULiege. This study applies comprehensive chromatographic methods for the profiling of volatile metabolites present in the headspace of cancer cell cultures. This fundamental project is conducted in parallel with exhaled air analyses.
  • Metabolomics on blood samples: this project is a collaborative project with the translational gastroenterology unit of ULiege hospital (CHU). This study aims to develop and validate analytical methods for the characterization of small metabolites in human blood. The target outcome is the isolation of new disease biomarkers for early stage screening and enhanced understanding of selected metabolite pathways.

Partners: ULiege Hospital (CHU), GIGA Research Institute, histology and cytology lab, the ChIMiC consortium.

Forensic and Archeology

  • Blood and organ decomposition: this project is a collaborative project with the pathological anatomy laboratory of ULiege hospital (CHU). The aim of this research is to better understand the decomposition process of different body tissues in order to improve cadaver and rescue dog training methods.
  • Internal gas monitoring: this project is a collaborative project with the University of Lausanne. The aim is to analyze the volatile organic compound (VOC) composition of internal gas capacities that appear during the cadaveric decomposition process. These reservoirs are located using advanced post-mortem medical imaging techniques and analyzed by GC×GC-HRTOFMS to analytically support medico-legal investigations prior to autopsy.
  • Archeological resins: this project is a collaborative project with the TraceoLab at ULiege. The aim is to analyze and characterize the chemical composition of archeological resins in order to support the identification of their origin and their hafting practices. This project includes the study of natural substance aging through simulations in climate chambers.
  • Organic residues from archeological artefacts: this project is a collaborative project with the Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES), University of Tübingen, Germany. The aim of this study is to carry out headspace analysis of organic residues from the Royal Tomb of Qaṭna in order to determine the chemical composition of highly degraded organic remains from archaeological sites. Samples of different origins (g. bone, wood, textile, sediment) are currently under investigation.

Partners: ULiege hospital (CHU), University of Lausanne, Chaminade University, University of Technology Sydney, INCC, Protection Civile, TraceoLab, University of Tübingen.

Industrial applications

  • Petroleum and derivatives: this project is conducted for different industrial partners in order to evaluate the added value of multidimensional chromatography coupled to high resolution mass spectrometry using various ionization tools for the characterization of high added value petroleum products and by-products.
  • Smoking products: this project is conducted in order to better characterize the chemical composition of vapor phase and particulate phase of smoking products. This includes the analysis of typical combustible products, heat-not-burns, and e-cigarettes to compare their relative chemical contents.

Environmental contaminant analysis

  • Cryo-compression: This project focuses on the use of cryogenic compression to enhance chromatographic signal intensities in the chase for ultra-low sensitivity. Sub-attogram levels are targeted using sector MS, triple quadrupole MS, and time-of-flight MS. This is applied for the screening of organic pollutants such as dioxins and related compounds in biological matrices.
  • Screening for emerging chemicals: This project aims to apply comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled to high resolution time of flight mass spectrometer (GC×GC-HRTOFMS) for the identification of new pollutants in different matrices. In this study, the separation power of GC×GC is applied to evaluate potential (bio)accumulation of non-regulated analogs. The combination with HRTOFMS provides an extra dimension for compound identification.
  • Automation of sample preparation: This project focuses on the miniaturization of automated sample preparation tools for the isolation of ultra-trace contaminants in biological samples. Preparative chromatography is pushed to extremes to accommodate large flows of samples.

Partners: ThermoFisher Scientific, JEOL, Agilent, LECO, Fluid Management Systems (FMS)

Fundamental Research

  • Chromatographic separation optimization: This research focuses on the development of mathematical models (convex hull, peaks dispersion…), which quantitatively evaluate the quality of the chromatographic separation in the context of multidimensional chromatography. These parameters can be subsequently used in statistical designs for method optimization.
  • Data handling and bioinformatics: This research focuses on the development of data processing solutions for chromatography and mass spectrometry, with a principal interest for GC×GC data. This includes univariate and multivariate statistics combined with machine learning algorithms.

Partners: Georgia Tech, the ChIMiC consortium.

In addition to these long-term projects, proof of concept investigations, short-term service analysis and consulting activities are also provided to industrial partners.


  • GC×GC-LRTOFMS Pegasus from LECO (1)
  • GC×GC-MRTOFMS BenchTOF from LECO (1,2)
  • GC×GC-HRTOFMS from LECO (1)
  • GC×GC-HRTOFMS from JEOL (1,2)
  • GC×GC-MRTOFMS from JEOL (1,2)
  • GC×GC-FID from DANI (1,2,3)
  • GC-TOFMS from DANI (1,2,3)
  • GC-HRMS from ThermoFisher Scientific (1)
  • GC-TripleQuadMS from JEOL (1,2)

(1) Internal research

(2) Collaborative research

(3) Service


Head of the lab

Prof. Jean-François (Jef) FOCANT (u180258)


PhD Students


  • Chiara Calaprice, PhD (University of Birmingham, UK)
  • Romain Pesesse (Sabic, NL)
  • Anupam Giri, PhD (Sabic, NL)
  • Juan Escobar (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain)
  • Beate Gruber, PhD (Penn State, USA)
  • Katelynn Perrault, PhD (Chaminade University, USA)
  • Radek Lizak, PhD (QNH Consulting)
  • Benjamin L’homme, PhD (AB InBev)
  • Michal Brokl, PhD (BAT, UK)
  • Valle Morales, PhD (BAT, UK)
  • Catherine Brasseur, PhD (CerTech)
  • Benjamin Savareear, PhD (University of Alberta, CA)