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April 01, 2008 (Vol. 28, No. 7)

Aging ELISA Realm Takes Benchmark Role

New Technologies, Multiplexing Chief Among Them, Supplant This Assay Format as Workhorse

  • Very few assay formats on the market enjoy such a favorable reputation for performance, validation, and reproducibility as the ELISA. In the fast-paced life sciences and drug discovery fields, the fact that a technique has survived nearly 40 years denotes an incredible amount of continued trust in its performance level.

    ELISA kit manufacturers boast that they perform a tremendous amount of validation and quality control with stringent requirements on each kit, ensuring that costly failures are kept to a minimum. With an extremely high level of inter- and intra-assay reproducibility, quality ELISA kits provide validated, publishable results for academics and proven lot-to-lot consistency for large studies by pharma firms.

    Despite the technology’s solid reputation, the ELISA market has seen minimal growth over the past five years as researchers adopt newer technologies, especially the multiplex proteomic array platforms. Many studies that previously employed single-analyte ELISAs for target detection and quantification are now utilizing proteomic arrays for the convenience of multiplexing capabilities.

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    The ELISA, however, has assumed a new complementary role serving as the benchmark technology to multiplexing and other new assays, demonstrating that these product markets may be sustainable simultaneously. Researchers tend to use multiplex platforms to measure many targets at a time in a small number of samples and then switch to the ELISA technology to carefully measure many different samples for a selected target.

  • Additionally, researchers who do not need the advantages of multiplexing, lack the funding to purchase expensive array instrumentation and reagents, focus only on a few analytes, or require high assay sensitivity, continue to use ELISA kits. While the trend toward multiplex proteomic arrays has accounted for a declining growth rate in the overall ELISA market, unless newer platforms dramatically decrease in price and improve on sensitivity levels, the ELISA will continue to maintain a role in research.

    Interestingly, ELISA providers have reacted to newer technologies in different ways. Determined to take advantage of the trend toward multiplexing, several companies have stalled expansion of their ELISA kit portfolios over the past five years in favor of focusing resources toward the development of multiplex or other new assay types. Other providers vehemently defend the complementary role of ELISAs to proteomic arrays and continue expansion of their ELISA lines while building multiplex assay portfolios as well.

    Smaller companies without the R&D budgets to develop new multiplex assays have sought niche markets to penetrate to circumvent heavy competition. In general, new ELISA product introductions attempt to serve a different market sector than multiplex assays currently reach.

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