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BioMarket Trends : Dec 1, 2011 (Vol. 31, No. 21)

Protein Purification Reagent Market Expands

Role in Biopharmaceutical, Diagnostic, and Basic Biomedical Research Increases Usage
  • Christianne Bird

The abundant number and various types of proteins, coupled with the continued discovery of new proteins, means that researchers must continue to study their structure, function, modifications, and interactions. The need for protein characterization and functional studies drives basic research, as fundamental protein knowledge has yet to reach a plateau.

Moreover, proteins are a major focus area for the pharmaceutical and diagnostics industry. Key application areas include protein-protein interaction studies, drug screening, target identification, biomarker discovery, protein therapeutics, diagnostic tests, and disease monitoring.

The use of proteins as therapeutics or targets for therapeutics to treat disease, continues to drive protein research. Scientists conducting research on the basic structure, function, interactions, and pathways of proteins hope to translate knowledge from bench to bedside as drugs or diagnostics.

The successes proteins have compiled as therapeutics and diagnostics are also driving the adoption of automated protein purification instruments. These instruments increase the throughput of laboratories and enable large-scale projects involving a greater number of samples. Recent vendor launches of automated proteomics sample-preparation systems demonstrate the continued demand for automated purification systems.

Protein purification reagent vendors generally supply resins, beads of various binding abilities, prepacked columns/cartridges filled with a particular resin, and complete protein purification kits.

This article analyzes the market for these various protein purification products. Kits account for roughly 10–15% of revenues in this market, while the remaining 85–90% is associated with resins, beads, and prepacked columns.

Many researchers conduct homebrew purification, involving the purchase of blank beads and the in-house construction of methods to pull out proteins from scratch. Less than 10% of users conduct true homebrew purification, and this is only when a bead or media is not available on the market.

Affinity tags are widely used for protein purification and remain a significant driver of the chromatography market due to the ability to achieve high-purity proteins in a single step. The most commonly used affinity tags are polyhistidine (His-tag), glutathione S-transferase (GST-tag), and streptavidin (strep-tag). Researchers are moving away from using size-exclusion purification, especially on the large scale, because the methods are too slow and require significant hands-on time.

Ion exchange and hydrophobic interaction chromatography are expected to maintain a sizable customer base, particularly for preparative or large-scale applications, because users often employ multiple technologies in tandem for their purification needs. Furthermore, the expense of tagged-based approaches compared to more cost-effective nontagged methods often rules them cost-prohibitive for large-scale applications.

The protein purification market is mature and highly fragmented among the more than 25 competitors supplying products. In addition, technology development within the market has dwindled in recent years, with few new product launches. Highly competitive, but rather stagnant in new developments, vendors may turn to pricing to compete.

In 2010, an estimated 22.3 million protein-purification reactions were conducted, 54.3% by tagged methods and 45.7% by nontagged methods. Revenue for the global protein purification reagents market includes all reagents, consumables, and kits sold for tagged and nontagged chromatography-based purification of all protein types globally.

In 2010, this market earned $341.7 million in revenue at 4.8% growth. Certain market segments (i.e., tagged purification) are growing well; others (i.e., nontagged) are declining. The switch to more expensive tag-based products and the growing interest in proteins in both basic and pharmaceutical research will drive this mature market at a compound annual growth rate of 5% through 2014.