A new report entitled Gene Expression Markets in Europe published by Frost & Sullivan predicts that revenue in the gene expression market will increase nearly five-fold over the next six years from €300m in 2005 to €1.45bn in 2012. However, for this to occur, the industry must overcome difficulties in data analysis and expensive research techniques.
Scientists can analyse variations in gene sequence and gene expression to identify the defective genes and polymorphisms that are associated with a specific disease. About half of such research is conducted in the field of cancer. These techniques provide initial insight into whether a potential drug merits further research and as such are immensely useful to drug discovery and development.
However, for the market to achieve it's potential growth, Frost & Sullivan's Drug Discovery Technologies' programme leader, Dr Amarpreet Dhiman, advised that: "The collection, organisation and analysis of large amounts of biological data using networks of computers and databases has resulted in a data explosion, and has created a compelling need for establishing robust infrastructures in order to make progress and streamline the drug discovery processes.
"There are many software tools for data handling, but there is a pressing need for tools that can change data knowledge in a palatable format understood by biologists."
The market can be divided into three niches. These are: DNA microarrays, real time PCR and RNAi. Currently, only a handful of companies use these new technologies because their cost effectiveness is still to be determined.
Dr Dhiman told DrugResearcher.com: "One of the main challenges is that companies are not very used to change. As yet, they are not sure that the innovative needs are worth the cost."
"Although there is a clear indication of the potential for drugs to reach faster to the market, their premium pricing does not justify the use of some of these technologies for routine processes. Research has found that the industry would be willing to invest more and reap the financial rewards if their data is more reliable and consistent."
As more people adopt the technology and it becomes standardised, it will become more user friendly and data will become more consistent. This will cause prices to drop but this will be balanced by increasingly expensive supplementary costs, such as software. As the technologies improve, the market is beginning to see increased investment as well as the licensing of the technology.
Dr Dhiman elaborated: "These processes require a lot of skilled labour and time. Therefore, honing the automation can help manufacturing processes to become more cost effective, thus aiding the consumers by lowering price."
Laboratories can combine home brew microarrays with equipment and accessories from the commercial sector. This requires cross comparison of data across platforms. Data validation is another major problem. Any data obtained also has to be corroborated through repeated biological experiments.
In addition to cancer research, gene expression analysis is also applied to cardiovascular disease, immune and inflammatory diseases (AIDS and asthma for example) and central nervous system disorders. The technique can open the door to new diagnostic tests and personalised medicine.
Dr Dhiman notes: "Within the realm of drug discovery and development, the expression of genes develop new therapeutics, identify early warning signs of disease, and even sub-classify patients based not on symptoms, but on the abnormal changes observed in their specific cells."