Various figures have been suggested to the size of the PCR market. Conservative estimates place the industry at $4.5 billion (€3.4 billion). The figure took into account the amount spent worldwide in 2003 on industrial and academic research to understand human gene function.
It is a widely held belief within the industry that Applied Biosystems dominates most product categories associated with real-time (kinetic or quantitative) polymerase chain reaction (PCR), including kits, fluorescent detection chemistries and instrumentation.
In an interview with DrugResearcher.com, Andrew Felton, product manager, real-time PCR and arrays, Applied Biosystems, said that markets surveys of both existing customers and prospects for real-time PCR have shown a desire to get results from experiments more quickly.
"There are already systems in the market place that give fast real-time PCR run times, so the feature has proven value. But typically these systems achieve these times by using non-standard consumable formats that are difficult to integrate into a standard molecular biology laboratory used to the 96-well format, fulfilling a primary market request," he commented.
Applied Biosystems division of Applera Corporation achieves the majority of its revenues from DNA sequencing technologies. The company has installed over 10,000 automated sequencers in the past decade and has over 70 per cent of the market.
Applied Biosystems introduced the first commercially available real-time PCR instrument with the 7700 platform in 1997 with the ABI Prism 7700 sequence detector based on TaqMan assays. It was swiftly replaced in 2000 by the upgraded ABI Prism 7900HT Sequence Detection System 2000, which reduced the 2-hour experimental time to approximately 35 minutes.
Felton said: "The 7900HT Fast Real-Time PCR System, in particular was designed with the drug discovery pipeline in mind, incorporating a 384-well format option, and software support to facilitate data analysis in high-throughput workflows all conforming to 21 CFR part 11 regulations."
Applied Biosystems' introduction of four new systems in quick succession with the 7900HT Fast Real Time System, the 7300 and 7500 Systems and its latest addition, the 7500 Fast Real Time System demonstrates the depth of its real-time PCR product offering and illustrates the stranglehold it currently has on the market.
Its multi-launch strategy is based on industry experience and solid market sales. By mid-2003, Applied Biosystems had over 1700 orders for its $300,000 ABI PRISM 3700 DNA analyzer, or 1475 excluding those from its sister division of Applera, Celera Genomics business unit.
Felton expected the real-time PCR market would continue to grow at substantial rates for the next few years.
"There will be particular emphasis on the wider adoption of real-time PCR in the basic research as well as other more applied markets such as food & beverage safety and environmental testing."
Having notched up sales worth $252 million in 2001, the US and European market for real-time thermal cyclers is set to fetch combined revenues of $776 million by 2006, according to data from Frost & Sullivan.
They have suggested that the rising popularity of microarrays in the US and European life science market acts as a complementary driver for real-time thermal cyclers, for example in the validation of microarray results using real-time PCR.