April 15, 2008 (Vol. 28, No. 8)
Shankar Sellappan Ph.D.
Though HTS and Automation Have Lowered Revenue Potential, Market Is Still Thriving
The diversity of biomolecules present in human cells and the need to characterize their presence in normal development and diseased states drives the growth of the cell-based assays market. New applications continue to develop as measurement capabilities are enhanced through innovations in technology and the demand for additional knowledge about proteins.
The information gained from other life science research technologies continues to open up opportunities for discovery of cellular components and activities, and the medical research community continues to demand focused assays that are targeted directly toward revealing this information.
Innovation in assay design has made the identification of protein expression and assessment of the functional characteristics of cellular components feasible for events considered to be difficult to study directly.
These novel assay designs incorporate new signal analysis methods such as luminescent- and fluorescent-based tags, which allow for in-depth analysis that can provide data on specific functions of targeted biomolecules. These tags also provide for longer-lasting signals that deteriorate to a lesser degree and act as measurement approaches that do not interfere in normal cellular function.
In addition, the introduction of highly specific epitope-targeted antibodies as part of cellular-based analysis is likely to increase the use of these assays for research purposes.
HTS Impacts Market
Researchers’ migration to high-throughput screening and automation of cell-based assays, however, is unexpectedly slowing market growth. The recognition of the power provided by including cell-based assays as part of experimental analysis on signaling mechanisms has resulted in the significant adoption of high-throughput screening technologies coupled with cell-based assays.
This seemingly positive use has actually driven down costs per sample as high-throughput screening methods require lower reagent volumes per sample. As a result, high-throughput screening and automation has lowered the revenue potential that can be realized by the cell-based assays market.
In 2007, by virtue of the diversity of the available products, the growing number of users in the market, and the relative newness of these users, the sales of functional cell assays provided the greatest revenues to the U.S. cell-based assays market, contributing nearly one-half of the total market revenues. This market segment is expected to continue to increase its share of the total market relative to both the cell growth-associated and cell death-associated market segments as additional products are supported by increased demands for analysis of events that could be considered functional.
The cell death-associated market segment is the second-leading contributor of revenues to the U.S. cell-based assays market, accounting for 30.2% of the total market revenues. This segment is also likely to experience higher growth rates due to the technical aspects of measuring cell death, thereby demanding a higher cost per experimental sample as compared to assessing cell growth.
Competition in the functional cell and cell death-associated assays markets continues to grow in terms of the number of participants competing in the market. The cell growth-associated assays market segment is the smallest contributor of revenue to the U.S. cell-based assays market, accounting for 23% of the total revenues.
The value of measuring cellular growth and growth-associated properties will remain strong in the foreseeable future, though the routine nature of measuring cell growth demands a much lower premium than required for the measurement of other activities.
Shankar Sellappan, Ph.D., is an industry analyst in the drug discovery technologies and clinical diagnostics group of Frost & Sullivan. Web: www.frost.com. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.