The global synthetic biology market is projected to reach $30.7 billion by 2026 from $9.5 billion in 2021, at a compound annual growth rate of 26.5% during the forecast period, according to a report from MarketsandMarkets.com.* Factors favoring the market’s growth include a wide range of applications of synthetic biology, the rising R&D funding and growing initiatives in synthetic biology, the declining costs of DNA sequencing and synthesis, and the increasing investments in the market. However, biosafety, biosecurity, and ethical concerns related to synthetic biology could slow growth.
Many established pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies, along with players of the synthetic biology market, have stepped forward to contribute to worldwide research efforts by providing synthetic biology for developing test kits, treatments, and vaccines to target the infection caused by the coronavirus. Synthetic biology is highlighted as one of the emerging technologies in a report from the European Parliament. It can tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. National Institutes of Health has also identified synthetic biology as one way to accelerate vaccine development.
Synthetic biology technologies have the potential to transform the development and production of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics by utilizing engineering approaches built on a variety of information types (genomic sequences, sequence annotations, enzyme properties, metabolic models, laboratory protocols, algorithms, and scientific knowledge).
For example, DNA- and mRNA-based vaccine technologies can ease the development and production of vaccines. These vaccines consist of synthetic nucleotide strands that trigger the formation of proteins via the individual’s own cells, thereby inducing an immune response. The availability of viral sequence data can thus be rapidly translated into vaccine candidates. This has enabled ventures such as Moderna and Inovio Pharmaceuticals to rapidly move into clinical development.
Global synbio market dynamics
The key driver for the market is the increased funding for synthetic biology initiatives. The R&D sector has conventionally remained capital intensive due to long development periods and approval cycles. Governments recognize R&D as a crucial investment for technological progress, international competitiveness, and public benefit. Due to this, R&D expenditure and funding have witnessed a steady increase over the years.
According to Business Wire (September 2020), R&D spending on the life sciences industry surged 22% from 2018 to 2019. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies invest heavily in research to develop breakthrough molecules to cater to the growing needs of the healthcare industry and combat new diseases. The global pharmaceutical R&D sector accounts for about 80% of the overall R&D expenditure in the life sciences industry.
One important biosafety concern in synthetic biology is the intentional or unintentional release of synthetic organisms into the environment during research and other applications. Synthetic microbes, when released into the environment, can mutate and/or interact with other organisms. They can even crossbreed with natural organisms, potentially disrupting ecosystems or giving rise to antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
In recent years, the European Union has funded several research efforts on the environmental impact of deliberately released genetically engineered microbes for plant growth or bioremediation. Such efforts can identify biosafety, biosecurity, and ethical issues.
With the increasing fuel consumption and growing concerns over energy security, sustainability, and climate change, biofuels are gaining significant importance. Around 150 billion tons of biomass is generated annually across the globe. Currently, edible commodities such as maize, sugarcane, and vegetable oil are being used to produce biofuels. This practice has initiated a debate on “food versus fuel.”
However, these issues are being addressed due to the emergence of second-generation biofuels that are produced from renewable, cheap, and sustainable feedstocks such as citrus peel, corn stover, sawdust, bagasse, straw, and rice peel. This is paving the way for the application of synthetic biology techniques in the development of renewable energy.
Market dominance by the oligonucleotides and synthetic DNA segment
On the basis of tools, the synthetic biology market is broadly segmented into oligonucleotides and synthetic DNA, enzymes, cloning technology kits, synthetic cells, chassis organisms, and xeno nucleic acids. In 2020, oligonucleotides and synthetic DNA accounted for the largest share of the synthetic biology market. This segment’s large share can be attributed to factors such as rising demand for synthetic DNA, synthetic RNA, and synthetic genes, which are used in a wide range of applications.
Based on application, the synthetic biology market is segmented into medical applications, industrial applications, food and agriculture applications, and environmental applications. The medical applications segment is expected to register the highest compound annual growth rate during the forecast period. The main drivers for the medical application segment’s growth include extensive research on new and better treatments, as well as the availability of private and public funding for the discovery of novel therapies.
North America is the largest regional market
Geographically, the synthetic biology market is segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Middle East and Africa. In 2020, North America accounted for the largest share of the synthetic biology market, followed by Europe and the Asia Pacific. The large share of the North American market is attributed to the increase in the number of well-established synthetic biology companies and research institutes in the United States and Canada. Other growth factors include the large number of ongoing research studies and the growth of the overall healthcare sector on a global scale.
Substantial R&D spending is one of the key factors contributing to the increasing demand for synthetic biology tools and technologies among academic and research institutes and healthcare companies in North America.
Companies covered in the report include Agilent Technologies, Amyris, Arzeda, ATUM, Codexis, Creative Enzymes, Cyrus Biotechnology, Eurofins Scientific, Genomatica, GenScript, Ginkgo Bioworks, Illumina, Integrated DNA Technologies, Merck, New England Biolabs, Novozymes, OriGene Technologies, Precigen, Royal DSM, Scarab Genomics, Synthego, Synthetic Genomics, TeselaGen, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Twist Bioscience.
*MarketsandMarkets recently released a new report, “Synthetic Biology Market by Tool (Oligonucleotides, Enzymes, Synthetic Cells), Technology (Gene Synthesis, Genome Engineering), Application (Tissue Regeneration, Biofuel, Consumer Care, Food & Agriculture, Environmental) and Region—Global Forecast to 2026.”