Biomarkers are biochemical features that either directly or indirectly provide information about the presence of a disease and its progression (or remission) and effects of a drug compound on the disease. They can be used to evaluate drug therapies in clinical trials, acting as 'surrogate endpoints' during clinical trials where ultimately the condition would lead to the patients death if not treated effectively. Biomarkers could also prove invaluable in determining the efficacy of drugs for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's where currently the only way to conclusive tell whether a patient has the disease is to open up the brain after death and look for the build up of amyloid plaques. Additionally they can be used to monitor a patients response to a drug to minimise the likelihood of them suffering an adverse event (AE). These far-reaching benefits have led analysts from BCC Research to predict that the global market for biomarkers will grow from a predicted value of $5.6bn in 2007 to $12.8bn by 2012 at a compound average growth rate (CAGR) of 18 per cent. The analyst's findings are discussed in a new report entitled: 'Biomarkers: The Expanding Global Market'. BCC research segmented the biomarker market into three main sections: biomarker discovery, molecular diagnostics and clinical trials. Of these, the biomarker discovery for applications in drug discovery, preclinical studies of drug development and diagnostics research applications was the largest and accounted for nearly 48 per cent of the total market in 2007. This market is expected to grow to at a CAGR of 16.9 per cent to reach nearly $6bn by 2012, somewhat vindicating companies such as Vermillion (formerly Ciphergen) turning their back on instrumentation sales to focus on biomarker discovery programmes. The second biggest segment was found to be the use of biomarkers on molecular diagnostics applications which was estimated to be worth $2.3bn in 2007. The report predicts this market will grow at a CAGR of 17.5 per cent to be worth $5.2bn by 2012. This market will provide the point-of-care and laboratory based diagnostic tools that enable a more informed ability to choose the right drug for a disease and patient. While currently the smallest business segment, having been valued at around $612m in 2007, the clinical trials market has been predicted to see the largest growth rate with a CAGR of 23.5 per cent. This growth would see the market for biomarkers in clinical trials reach $1.8bn by 2012, and has already been spotted by many CROs (contract research organisations), with Covance having launched a 'biomarker expert team' earlier this year. The report suggests that the use of biomarkers to aid the discovery, testing and prescription of oncology therapeutics will be one of the biggest application areas. Applications in the cardiovascular and central nervous system areas are expected to grow during the next 7 years. Advances in technology that enable faster metabolomic, proteomic and genomic data acquisition as well as its integration with clinical trial data using bioinformatics software will all be major driving forces behind the growth of this burgeoning area.