Mass spectrometry has played a key part in drug discovery and development, particularly in biomarker discovery and evaluation. Its sensitive and selective detection, multi-analyte analysis, and the ability to provide structural information allows unique insights into drug make-up.
Mass spectrometry is also increasingly being used to support quantitative measurement to assist in the evaluation and validation of biomarker leads.
New analysis from >Frost & Sullivan has revealed the US Life Science Mass Spectrometry Markets, made revenues totalling $695.7m (€556m) in 2005 and is expected to reach $1.39bn in 2012.
With the incorporation of technological advances in hardware design and computational power, there has been dramatic improvements in the reliability and design of present-day mass spectrometers.
These instruments now promise greater versatility and the progression from laboratories to clinical use has greatly expanded the number of users as well as the scope of applications using mass spectrometry.
The report predicted further uptake would be achieved by focusing on screening patients through the identification of biomarkers as well as the move toward developing more effective drugs based on the structural properties of targets.
"Mass spectrometry is a versatile research tool, enabling scientists to identify both the causes of diseases and to develop customized treatments against them," said Shankar Sellappan, research analyst, Frost & Sullivan
"The search for biomarkers as well as the construction of detailed structural models of drugs, proteins, and other biomolecules will transform the traditional process of disease screening, diagnosis, and prognosis and will make available treatments that have been manipulated to increase efficacy," he added.
Mass spectrometry proves particularly useful in the research into cancers. The disease is not caused by the lack of a protein but by a mutation that alters its structure, thereby altering the function of the protein.
Information on how the protein is mutated, or the development of treatments that restore its function, based on structural analyses provided using mass spectrometry can minimise the effects of this abnormal protein.
The report goes on to identify instrument quality and reliability as two major stumbling blocks to users of mass spectrometers. Although users are likely to heavily utilise and rely upon these systems to provide data due to their high costs and ability to handle high volumes of sample, mass spectrometers are yet to show that they can withstand heavy pressure and have an approximate downtime of 15 per cent.
"The high cost of maintenance, in terms of both dollars as well as time, is a critical market restraint that threatens to curtail investments in these highly technical instruments," said Sellappan.
"With tightening funding levels, competition for research funding has increased and downtime of laboratory instruments clearly affects project planning, progress, morale, as well as the type of experiments pursued."
The report concluded that manufacturers would need to leverage their pricing powers to provide incentives for mandatory feedback on these instruments.
Another option mentioned involved conducting practical workshops for new mass spectrometers prior to their release for sale.
In this approach, a broad range of end users, from those employed in relatively low- skilled, high-throughput environments to highly trained researchers, could test these instruments in real-world applications without the help of company representatives.
This would allow for the identification and refinement of problems that would commonly go unnoticed by those employed by the manufacturing company prior to the release of the product for sale.