July 1, 2013 (Vol. 33, No. 13)

Market Fragmentation Presents Opportunities for Life Science Suppliers

China remains an attractive market for life science tool suppliers capable of taking advantage of strong demand for nucleic acid purification (NAP) products. While the Chinese NAP market is expected to grow overall at more than 8% in the next 12 months, particular market segments such as DNA and RNA library preparation for next-generation sequencing are projected to grow at a rate of over 20%.

The nucleic acid purification research market in China is proving to be very different from that of North America and Europe. Major differences exist in the competitive landscape, use of specific NAP methods, and distribution/dealer channels.

Results from respondents to a recent Percepta study indicate that Qiagen, Tiangen (acquired by Qiagen in 2005), and Life Technologies are leading suppliers for the 15 market segments analyzed. Six additional companies emerge as second-tier NAP suppliers: Corning/Axygen, BioTeke, Illumina, Promega, Roche, and TaKaRa/Clontech.

In six of fifteen market segments analyzed, the leading supplier exhibits characteristics of an entrenched market leader, which is markedly different from the competitive landscape in North America and Europe, where Percepta data shows Qiagen dominates its closest competitor by 37 percentage points on average for all segments analyzed. These fragmented NAP market segments present significant opportunity for life science research tool suppliers that conduct business in China.

The Percepta 2013 Series One Nucleic Acid Purification (China) Life Science Dashboard™ study focuses on fifteen key nucleic acid market segments, a majority of which have been analyzed by the company on an ongoing basis since 2005 for North American and Europe (NA/EU).

Key NAP market segments in China include products for extraction of nucleic acids from gels, genomic DNA, and total RNA isolation from various starting materials such as cells/tissue, formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue, whole blood, plasmid preparation, mRNA/microRNA isolation, post-reaction cleanup, and RNA/DNA library preparation for next-generation sequencing.

Comparisons to our NAP Life Science Dashboard results for NA/EU show life science laboratories are larger in China and have a much greater number of employees who perform NAP experiments per lab. Looking at overall laboratory size, 40% of life science laboratories in China have more than 10 people that perform NAP experiments as opposed to only 23% of NA/EU laboratories (see bar chart above).

The median number of laboratory researchers that perform NAP experiments in China is 10, compared to only six in NA/EU.

Performance of Nucleic Acid Purification (NAP)


Detailed analysis of responses from more than 400 life science researchers in China reveal four NAP techniques are performed by 60% or more respondents and account for 52% of the overall market: gel extraction, genomic DNA isolation from cells and tissue, plasmid DNA miniprep, and post-reaction cleanup.

Downstream applications for these methods are primarily cloning and endpoint PCR, though usage by customer segment varies considerably (Table). In addition to NAP technique usage, the study covers leading indicators for each technique segment such as projected growth rate, reaction throughput levels, general customer satisfaction and propensity to switch suppliers, perceived pricing, and primary and secondary downstream applications.

The study also shows that 75% of NAP products are primarily purchased through distributors, while 25% are primarily purchased directly through tool suppliers. Gene Company Ltd. of Hong Kong emerges as the primary distributor overall for the combined market segments analyzed, however, 11 additional distributors are specified by respondents. Though nucleic acid purification methods are well established among researchers, 11–25% of respondents indicate they have switched NAP suppliers during the last six months.

The high rate of switching suggests customer dissatisfaction with existing product performance characteristics, pricing, and/or service/support. When asked whether they would consider switching vendors in the future, more than 28% indicated an interest in switching to a product that outperforms what they currently use for the following product categories:

  • DNA library prep for NGS (28.9%)
  • Genomic DNA from FFPE tissue (33.3%)
  • MicroRNA purification (28.8%)
  • RNA library prep for NGS (32.1%)
  • Total RNA from FFPE tissue (39.1%)

Opportunities exist for life science suppliers with well-developed distribution channels in China to increase their market share for nucleic acid purification products. Though Qiagen dominates the NA/EU, significant market fragmentation exists in China for nucleic acid purification.

For highly popular techniques such as DNA and RNA library prep for NGS, generally, a majority of researchers who are interested in switching products cited a desire for improved technical performance characteristics over lower prices. This need aligns well with current life science tool supplier activities, as many have released new purification products for NGS, real-time PCR, endpoint PCR, and transfection.

Table. Key Nucleic Acid Market Segments in China

Anne St Louis ([email protected]) is a senior director at Percepta Associates.

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