February 1, 2007 (Vol. 27, No. 3)

Improvements to Stability and Efficiency and Specificity of Delivery Crucial as Use Steps Up

RNAi has rapidly evolved into a powerful technique to silence gene expression in cells, which allows researchers to study the molecular effects of modulating expression at the level of individual genes. The diversity of its applications has made RNAi an indispensable tool for scientists interested in gene function characterization, signaling pathway analysis, and target validation.

Building upon the success of BioInformatics’ 2004 report on RNAi, “Optimizing Synthetic siRNA: Perspectives from the Pharmaceutical & Biotech Industries” provides key insights into this valuable market. Based on the responses of industrial scientists from over 90 pharmaceutical and biotech companies that currently use siRNA in their research, this report is a detailed guide to the market based upon researchers’ product expectations, experimental requirements, and brand opinions.

While fast becoming essential to both small biotech and large pharmaceutical R&D programs, the use of siRNA is still relatively new—five years old or so. For the first time, this report presents suppliers with a comprehensive overview of the applications for which industrial scientists use synthetic siRNAs.

Study results indicate that most respondents employ RNAi for such exploratory research as drug discovery and gene function determinations. In contrast, few respondents utilize RNAi for biologically complex experiments, such as in vivo knockouts, therapeutics, and pathway analysis. Suppliers need to identify improvements to current product offerings that would facilitate such research while enabling the incorporation of RNAi into existing protocols and the development of new methodologies. Additionally, the report highlights possible competitive technologies to supplier’s siRNA products that are especially relevant to the pharmaceutical and biotech industry.

Expected throughput levels of synthetic siRNAs and the market growth potential for custom, predesigned, and validated synthetic siRNAs are also provided in this report. This information should be considered when suppliers plan for production in growth areas to meet the unique needs of industrial researchers. The outlook for sales of validated siRNA, in particular, is strong. Based on study results, suppliers may be faced with cannibalization of their lucrative custom siRNA sales with either predesigned or validated siRNA.

As an accompaniment to this information, the report presents synthetic siRNA brand share by usage rates and relative expenditure for the U.S. market and the rest of the world market. This data will help suppliers understand their competitive position in what is essentially a two-tier market. The results can be used to validate internal market share estimates.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) rankings for the preferred suppliers are also featured in the report. The NPS score provides an indication of those brands that engender more active brand loyalty and thus generate word-of-mouth buzz. This information, combined with product strengths (i.e., siRNA options) and weaknesses (i.e., siRNA performance), should enhance suppliers ability to enhance their brand perceptions by improving product features that are the most important to their customers.

Increasing market share for suppliers other than those in the top tier may be difficult. Survey respondents report that on average they purchase synthetic siRNA from only two suppliers. Furthermore, 80% of these purchases are from one of the top four primary suppliers. However, second-tier suppliers may have an opportunity both to differentiate their brand and encourage brand switching.

Both the product offering and the service delivered with it are the bases for brand differentiation in this market. Of critical importance is respondents’ willingness to consider switching suppliers. Almost all respondents stated that they could be convinced to try another supplier’s product if the product performed superiorly on an attribute deemed important to the scientist.

As industrial scientists begin to focus more on siRNA’s potential as a therapeutic agent, improvements to its inherent physical stability and the efficiency and specificity of tissue-targeted delivery in vivo will be required. Currently, these product features are not as critical to respondents, even though they are relatively dissatisfied with their siRNA’s performance in these areas.

hese features, however, will become more important as RNAi evolves into a powerful tool for exploring gene expression, using in vivo models, and developing innovative RNAi-based treatments. Suppliers who first establish themselves as product leaders in these cutting edge research areas have the opportunity to increase their market share.

Tamara Zemlo, Ph.D., is the director of syndicated research and analysis for BioInformatics. Web: www.gene2drug.com. E-mail: [email protected]. For information on obtaining the full report, please contact Amanda Donathen. E-mail: [email protected]. Phone: (703) 778-3080.

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