Tracking the cellular assay market

Related tags Drug discovery High-throughput screening

The worldwide cellular assays market is projected to grow by more
than 50 per cent to $700 million over the next five years as
pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies seek methods to increase
the efficiency of their drug discovery efforts, according to a new

A wealth of genetic information has been created using functional genomics and proteomics but, once these new targets are identified and validated, the function of the gene products within a cell must be correlated to an effect on the cell's function. Only then can drug candidates be selected, says Front Line Strategic Market Reports.

"Cellular assays create the possibility of discovering drugs that interact with previously unknown targets. This allows for the lead identification and validation of new chemical entities (NCEs) without screening against potentially patented gene targets,"​ notes the report.

At an average price of $1,000 for assay systems and $250,000 for instrumentation, the high cost of cellular assay technology is expected to limit growth until economic recovery in the life sciences industry allows for the expansion of research. The report expects the market to expand around 7 per cent a year until accelerating to double-digit growth in 2007.

The US accounts for the lion's share of the market, at around 52 per cent of the total, with Europe following behind with 30 per cent and Japan in third with 15 per cent.

Fluorescence-based cellular assays will remain the dominant detection method in the market though 2009, according to the report, and improvements in novel detection methods - such as bio/chemiluminescence - are not expected to greatly impact the market over the next five years. However, they represent an improvement in sensitivity and durability over current fluorescent techniques says Front Line.

Players like Amersham Biosciences and PerkinElmer are currently dominating the field, with 24 and 17 per cent of the market, respectively. They will maintain this level of market share over the next five years, says Front Line, although it predicts that the larger companies will likely acquire smaller players with promising technologies. New market entrants will only occupy niche spaces, it says.

One company expected to gain market share is Invitrogen, as it integrates assay technology from its acquisitions of Genicon Sciences, Molecular Probes and PanVera.

Other major companies in the cellular assay sector include BD Biosciences with 12 per cent of the market, Beckman Coulter with 10 per cent and Invitrogen and Molecular Devices, with 9 per cent apiece.

Looking at specific drivers of the market, Front Line notes that high content screening - i.e. screens which look beyond the interaction of a compound with a target - has gained greater acceptance in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. As HCS increases in throughput capabilities, it could potentially replace high throughput screening (HTS) in the primary screening stages, forecasts Front Line. Performing HCS earlier in the drug discovery process will improve efficiency and limit the number of irrelevant compounds which are explored.

Also, as pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies search for better defined leads, demand for discovery tools that can provide robust information will increase. Traditionally, immortalised cell lines have been used in drug discovery, but more researchers are turning to primary cells for their discovery efforts. Primary cells are more similar to the natural cell environment in the living body than immortalised cell lines.

For more information on Front Line's strategic market report, entitled Cellular Assays 2004: Industry Trends and End-User Analysis, visit​ or e-mail Anil Patel​ or Chris Kammer​.

Related topics Preclinical Research

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