February 1, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 3)

Life Science Firms are Scampering to Enter Market to Take Advantage of Research Trend

The discovery that miRNA plays a pivotal role in the regulation of gene expression sparked tremendous interest among researchers to further characterize these molecules and study their relation to disease. miRNA appears to play an integral role in the expression of genes related to many diseases, from heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s to many types of cancer, including leukemia, brain, breast, colon, liver, and lung cancers.

Their inhibitory actions have been shown to affect many cellular processes, including development, differentiation, cell proliferation, and apoptosis, and several metabolic processes. These discoveries have excited researchers worldwide and generated a surge in miRNA research over the past eight years.

After a dormancy period of eight years following the discovery of miRNA in 1993, scientists published just four articles on miRNA in 2001, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s PubMed. In 2003, the number of articles published on miRNA surpassed 100, and in 2007 the number passed 1,000. This growth in publishing mainly reflects the popularity of miRNA research in the academic sector.

This enthusiasm also prompted several life science companies to enter the miRNA market to take advantage of the research trend. Clearly, as more scientists conduct research in this field, more products are purchased, driving the overall miRNA market. Furthermore, the race to publish on miRNAs has prompted the use of services for expression profiling to speed up project timelines, thus boosting the miRNA services market.

Revenues for the total miRNA market include sales of miRNA microarrays and ancillary reagents, miRNA qRT-PCR kits and ancillary reagents, and miRNA functional analysis products. In 2008, the largest segment of the miRNA market was the qRT-PCR market, accounting for 48.3% of the total market. The second largest segment was the microarray market, generating 38.9% of the total market. Lastly, the smallest contributor to the total miRNA market was the functional analysis market, accounting for 12.8% of the total market.

The miRNA qRT-PCR segment is forecast to increase each year in the percentage of revenues it contributes to the total market as the microarray market decreases in its percentage. After 2010, the functional analysis segment is forecast to increase in its percentage of revenue contribution to the total market each year.

The emerging miRNA market is moderately competitive with more than 15 competitors. Each year since market formation in 2005, new vendors have entered the market to take advantage of the dramatic increase in miRNA research. New entries in the market each year have included vendors well-established in existing technologies that extend their products to miRNA research (i.e., microarrays and qRT-PCR), companies expanding their current miRNA tool portfolios, and smaller providers hoping to take advantage of the booming research trend in miRNA. Market participants represent a range of large, medium, and small life science instrumentation and reagent companies. These diversified providers have created a dynamic market with increasing competition.

Important competitive factors in the miRNA market include vendors’ recognition as experts in miRNA, microarrays, qRT-PCR or functional analysis products, time-to-market, miRNA content, sensitivity, specificity, sample size, flexibility, throughput, price, brand name, publications, and distribution channels.

In such a young marketplace, customer loyalties toward particular companies are usually not well established or resolute. However, this factor is likely to have an increasing effect as the market matures. The impact of pricing may also increase as smaller competitors try to compete on price. Time-to-market, however, will decline sharply as a relevant competitive factor, as newer entries make gains on early market entries.

Christianne Bird ([email protected]) is a research analyst in the drug discovery technologies and clinical diagnostics group of Frost & Sullivan. Web: www.frost.com.

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