April 15, 2013 (Vol. 33, No. 8)

Examining Current Market Trends and Segments of Research Efforts

Exosome research is growing exponentially as researchers from several disparate disciplines are exploring the role of exosomes in inter-cellular communication, immunological responses, stem cell behavior, cancer cell communication, etc. Indeed, the potential of exosomes and other classes of microvesicles as a means of molecular cargo transport is being intensively studied. Exosomes are also relatively unexplored in molecular details and potential functional impact in vivo.

An area of significant research interest focuses on the potential for exosomes and circulating vesicles to serve as a proxy for disease processes in vivo. By virtue of their presence in various body fluids they lend themselves to being easily harvested and provide a potential window into the in vivo situation. However, the potential clinical application of exosomes in diagnostics and therapeutics is many years away, and at the present time the majority of the interest lies in performing research on these vesicles in order to characterize their molecular cargo and potential function.

Given the nascence of this field, we have sought to study publications in the exosomes and microvesicles space as a means to follow the research efforts and track hotspots in the field. We plan to track this fast-moving field every six months as a means to quickly spot trends as they emerge and pinpoint areas of opportunity to companies seeking to develop tools for exosome research as well as content-focused companies seeking to discover and platformize biomarkers found in exosomes and other vesicles.

Exosome-Focused Publications Are Growing

We identified 3,097 unique publications from the PubMed database containing exosome or microvesicle in their title or abstract. These were then binned using our proprietary algorithm to be able to visualize publications that appear in various fields—the hotspot map. Figure 1 presents a subset of the total hotspot map that we generated; this subset illustrates some of the trends in this field. (You can also see the hotspot map here.)

This hotspot map reveals various features:

  • A majority of the association of exosome-focused publications is with various types of cancer—this is expected as cancer is the primary driver of the exosomes space currently
  • There is a small number of papers discussing exosomes and specific molecular markers—we interpret this as the emergence of associations of specific molecular entities that have been identified and characterized in the context of exosomes; perhaps their presence within exosomes suggests a potential role for them as circulating biomarkers in the future
  • There is a smattering of papers focused on exosomes where long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are being studied, too—this suggests that there is a research push toward the characterization of lncRNAs with potential as biomarkers for physiology or disease states
  • Finally, there are publications focused on exosomes where specific microRNAs are being studied in various disease classes—most notably specific types of cancer. In this vein, miR-21 appears to be the most ubiquitously studied microRNA. We expect this field to expand and more publications associating specific microRNA cargo within exosomes with associated functionality to be described in the coming months
  • Acute myocardial infarction and HIV infection appear to be two disease states where a disproportionate number of publications focusing on exosomes have been described

In summary, our initiation of coverage of the exosome space based on publications analysis reveals some trends, and we will continually track this space over the coming months to follow the changes as they occur in this rapidly evolving marketplace.

Gary Oosta, Ph.D., is consulting technology analyst, and Jeff Fan ([email protected]) is biotechnology industry analyst at Select Biosciences (www.selectbio.com) where he tracks a number of markets.

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