"The RNA product market is crowded, with more than 25 suppliers offering RNA purification kits. To succeed, suppliers must distinguish themselves from their competitors by optimising their product portfolio," said Dr Robin Rothrock, director of market research at BioInformatics.
The survey revealed that Qiagen had a firm grasp on the purification kits segment and is trailed by Ambion. For scientists who use commercial reagents, Invitrogen outpaced its market peers for selection as primary supplier, followed in second by Sigma-Aldrich.
RNA purification is a critical first step for preparing biological samples for a multitude of analytical techniques including real-time quantitative PCR, reverse transcription PCR, microarrays, Northern blot analysis, nuclease protection assays, RNA mapping, in vitro translation and cDNA library construction.
The survey revealed that more than 60 per cent of scientists cited Qiagen as their primary supplier of RNA purification kits and more than 45 per cent identified Invitrogen as their primary supplier of commercial reagents.
With almost one-third of scientists surveyed reporting that they have used their primary supplier of RNA purification kits and/or reagents for more than 36 months, rival companies now have to factor in the challenge of overhauling customer loyalty.
BioInformatics, recently published its latest report: "The RNA Purification Market: Evaluating Competitive Dynamics & Establishing Benchmarks," that used a 34-question survey of more than 800 scientific customers to assess RNA purification practices and what influences a researcher to choose between commercial offerings and homebrew techniques.
The majority of scientists surveyed employ a mixture of methods to purify RNA, most often utilising kits (46 per cent) and/or reagents (42 per cent), though many respondents still prefer to use homebrew methods due to lower costs and optimised protocols.
The survey revealed that suppliers did not appear to be competing on price in this technologically undifferentiated market. Instead, successful suppliers were addressing areas of low customer satisfaction, such as speed, throughput and yield and then promoting this upgrade in their performance.
With regard to product attributes, one particularly burgeoning area for improvements is in sample throughput. Although they represented the smallest group, "high throughput" respondents accounted for over half of all samples purified per month.
More significantly, with 41 per cent of these scientists expecting to increase their throughput over the next 12 months, overall sample numbers are anticipated to escalate by 12 per cent. This increase in demand presents suppliers with an opportunity to expand their sales, either by selling more units or by making purification kits with an increased sample capacity.
"Interestingly enough, clinical researchers, who are becoming more reliant upon specialty suppliers as their primary source of purification kits and reagents," said Rothrock.
They not only purify more samples per month than respondents conducting basic research, but they are also more likely to expect their throughput to increase over the next year," he added.
The RNAi sector is difficult to define at present, as the major use of siRNA reagents is in research but partially overlaps that of drug discovery and therapeutic development.
Current estimates place the research market at around $300 million (€249 million) currently and will increase to $400 million in 2005 and $850 million by 2010. The value of the drug discovery market based on siRNA can be assessed at $500 million currently with increase to $650 million in the year 2005 and further doubling to $1 billion in the year 2010.
Even if a few products get into the market by the year 2010, this market will expand to $3.5 billion based on revenues from sales of siRNA-based drugs.