July 1, 2012 (Vol. 32, No. 13)

A recent analysis of the publications focused in the miRNA field has identified hotspots of research activity. This analysis allowed us to identify trends in the research space, specifically the manner in which publications can be utilized as a means to follow the progress of the field.

Given the tight association of miRNA signatures with specific biological phenotypes, we set out to determine the pattern of signatures of miRNA expression and their association with specific phenotypes. For this purpose, we chose a number of disease areas—primarily cancer-focused—as keywords to interrogate the titles and abstracts of publications. We did this for more than 38,000 publications, which we downloaded from PubMed.

Our data is presented in a “hotspot map”, which shows miRNA-focused publications in many different spaces. This figure provides a snapshot of the data and illustrates that there are patterns of research publications wherein some areas of the space are heavily explored whereas others are relatively virgin. We present here only a small snapshot of our total analyses that looked at most human miRNAs and examined many different biological spaces.

These results suggest to us that such analyses can be utilized as a means to understand the research landscape both from a standpoint of opportunities for vendors in the space seeking to develop products and also from a standpoint of researchers and companies seeking to develop intellectual property in the space (i.e., identifying novel associations of miRNA expression patterns with specific biological phenotypes—susceptibility to disease, obesity, infections, etc.).

Indeed, the data presented in the figure is consistent with the role of miRNA expression patterns as biomarkers for disease. Importantly, the data suggests that signatures of miRNA expression rather than individual miRNAs can serve as such biomarkers. Such data and associated analyses can underlie choices of miRNA groupings for subsequent development into miRNA-based biomarkers for eventual diagnostics development.

This snapshot of our continual industry tracking of the broader miRNA space describes methodologies by which a large number of publications can be studied en bloc as a means to discover patterns—hotspots—of research activity and eventual deployment into translational research efforts.

Our continuing market analyses of this space is focused on characterizing the evolution of miRNA content from a research as well as translational view—especially the deployment of miRNA signatures for diagnostics or therapeutic applicability.

“Hotspot map” of miRNA-focused publications

Gary Oosta, Ph.D., is president of Emerging Tech Insights, and Enal Razvi, Ph.D. ([email protected]), is biotechnology analyst at Select Biosciences.

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