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Metabolomics Quality Assurance and Quality Control Materials (MetQual) Program


The NIST Metabolomics Quality Assurance and Quality Control Materials (MetQual) Program has been created to demonstrate and improve the comparability of metabolomics measurements for industry, government, and academic laboratories through the use of NIST Reference Materials and Data (RMDs). The developed RMDs will serve as quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) materials for routine metabolomic measurements, differential studies, interlaboratory comparisons, laboratory and instrument qualification, and training for the metabolomics community. Furthermore, these RMDs will be assessed by both NIST evaluations and community-based interlaboratory comparisons.


Metabolomics includes both targeted identification and quantification of metabolites and non-targeted spectral profiling for identification of molecular signatures indicative of specific phenotypes. This evolving systems biology field is undergoing rapid growth and expanding beyond human health and precision medicine into food and nutrition, biomanufacturing, and forensic science. The immensity of metabolomics research leads to the introduction of many sources of variance throughout experimental workflows. Furthermore, analytical data from instrumental platforms can be more variable than the actual biological changes being probed. As such, the field has realized the importance of using QA/QC materials in metabolomics research.

Many laboratories create in-house QA/QC materials to control and normalize intra-laboratory variability, but the supply is usually limited and not suitable and/or not intended for use in interlaboratory comparison exercises, which are needed for commercial translation of metabolomic findings. Consequently, there exists a need for a large supply of stable QA/QC materials that can be routinely applied both within individual metabolomics studies and measurement campaigns and across various studies and laboratories. Adoption and regular utilization of such materials will lead to the harmonization of the metabolomics field in its application across academic research, diagnostics and testing laboratories, and varied bio-relevant industrial processes.


The purpose of the MetQual program is to provide affordable, stable, homogenous QA/QC materials to meet the needs of the metabolomics community. The goal is for these materials and their associated data (RMDs) to be evaluated by both NIST and the metabolomics community via interlaboratory comparison exercises, with a focus on qualitative characterization (i.e., identification of detected metabolites and discriminant metabolite fold changes). These RMDs may serve as valuable materials to harmonize metabolomics measurements.

Current Activity

Currently, a suite of pooled plasma materials comprising different metabolic health states (i.e., type 2 diabetes, hypertriglyceridemia, and normal African-American) are undergoing characterization to expand the plasma-based metabolomics RMDs offered by NIST. We are planning to administer an interlaboratory study in July/August 2018 to obtain consensus characterization of the materials and assess measurement variability within the metabolomics community.


Met Qual Program Coordinators, metqual [at]

Created April 6, 2018, Updated April 8, 2021