Towards the transcriptome - without arrays

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Related tags: Gene expression

The market for non-array products used in the analysis of the
transcriptome - a map of gene expression and mRNA in the cell - is
maturing quickly but will still grow at more than 14 per cent a
year between 2003 and 2008, says a report from Front Line.

The market for non-array products used in the analysis of the transcriptome - a map of gene expression and mRNA in the cell - is maturing quickly but will still grow at more than 14 per cent a year between 2003 and 2008.

This is the conclusion of a new study from Front Line Strategic Consulting​, which estimates that the market for these products will rise from an estimated $245 million (€216m) in 2003 to $475 million in 2008.

Non-array technologies, such as real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE), in situ​ hybridisation and northern blot, will see their applications shift from gene hunting to drug discovery and clinical diagnostics, the report predicts. Growth will be modest, but steady, as the rate of introduction of novel products slows and researchers adopt alternative technologies, including microarrays.

Potential shifts towards the use of in-house technologies will cause companies like Lynx Therapeutics, that operate as service providers, to lose market share, according to the report. "In contrast, companies like Bio-Rad and Genzyme Molecular Oncology will gain market share based on the superior quality of technologies they offer [while] applications in clinical diagnosis will bolster revenues for Roche Diagnostics,"​ Front Line notes.

Although many technologies used in non-array transcriptomics have been available for several years, there is capacity for product improvement and revenue growth, particularly in molecular diagnostics where microarrays are not suitable and in applications where cost is an issue. The technologies may also expand into applications in agriculture, disease prevention, oncology, prognostics and viral load testing.

However, there are still a number of bottlenecks that will restrict market growth. For instance, in some parts of the world, especially Northern Europe and North America, the market for real time PCR is already approaching saturation. Because microarrays serve roughly the same purpose as non-array technologies, they can compete for the same customers, adds the report, while competition in the non-array sector will lead to reduced margins and a reluctance to invest in innovation.

Meantime, the non-array sector is also affected by the cost of technology licenses, which in the case of quantitative PCR can be a significant brake on profitability.

Front Line suggests that there are a number of strategies companies can adopt to maintain growth. They include a focus on clinical diagnostics, investment in real-time PCR software (particularly for statistical analysis) and the development of higher-throughput technologies that would enable competition with microarrays. At the Max Planck Institute, engineers are developing nano-well thermal cyclers that may eventually run many thousands of reactions at a time, notes the report.

One area that is ripe for innovation is spatial expression analysis; scientists value tools that allow them to examine the three-dimensional regulation of gene expression, but this is not measured by current transcriptomics methods. Also, streamlining the connections between transcriptomics and protein expression (proteomics) will add to the power of this research.

"The robotic systems that are used in non-array transcriptomics are not entirely unrelated to the machinery used in proteomics. Sales partnerships between the various producers of these instruments, such as Roche Diagnostics, Genetix, and Applied Biosystems, would permit those companies to streamline entire systems for gene expression analysis,"​ according to Front Line.

In terms of market share, Applied Biosystems is leading the pack with 21 to 25 per cent, and is expected to retain this position in 2008. Other major players in 2003 are Genzyme, Invitrogen, Roche Diagnostics and Stratagene.

Related topics: Preclinical Research

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