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Going with the flow
LYON, France—Yole Développement, in its new technology and market analysis, "Microfluidic applications in the pharmaceutical, life sciences, in-vitro diagnostic and medical device markets," predicts the microfluidic devices market will grow swiftly from $1.4 billion in 2013 to $5.7 billion by 2018.
According to Benjamin Roussel, a technology and market analyst of microfluidics and medical technologies at Yole, "This impressive 27-percent growth will be fueled mainly by pharmaceutical research and point-of-care applications." Microfluidic devices are components used to accurately control a tiny volume of liquid, Roussel points out.
"When we talk about the microfluidic device market, it's really the market of microfluidic components without biological contents/reagents," he notes.
Applications in in-vitro diagnostics include point-of-care patient testing, with other applications in pharmaceutical and life-science research for drug discovery/screening as well as proteomics and genomics assays. The devices are also used for mass spec and chromatographic sample preparation. Other applications include the medical devices market where microfluidic components are used for drug delivery in inhalers, microneedles and implantable micropumps. Finally, in industrial and environmental testing, microfluidic-based tests are used for process and quality control, water testing (e.g., pesticides and bacteria) and in military and security applications.
The advantages and motivations for adopting microfluidic technologies are highly dependent on the targeted application. For example, the added value of microfluidic devices in point-of-care applications depends on the associated small volume of necessary reagents, low-cost disposables and high sensitivity. In a different context, the advantages for pharmaceutical research applications are to allow process automation and multiplexed assays.
A range of materials is used in the manufacture of microfluidic devices: glass, polymer, silicon, metal and ceramics. Whereas lower-cost polymer is becoming the reference substrate for point-of-care applications, glass is still the main substrate for analytical devices. The penetration rate of each substrate versus microfluidic application is presented in the report. Recently, the material mix has shifted toward silicon due to the need to add new on-chip functions linked to emerging applications, the report notes.
"Changes in material mix present exciting opportunities for new players entering the microfluidic market," Roussel states. "For example, the high growth rate of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies is opening new doors for silicon players."
In fact, he notes, "Today, the market for NGS technologies is booming. Key diagnostic players are entering the field through expensive acquisitions, opening what we call the 'sequencing race,' and most of the platforms use microfluidic consumables to support the test. We foresee a CAGR around 35 percent for the microfluidic devices dedicated to pharmaceutical research over the next five years. NGS technologies will contribute significantly to that impressive growth.
"Generally speaking, I would say that growth is being driven by a mix of new entries to the market, as well as from existing market leaders, but the answer highly depends on the sub-market considered," Roussel continues. "Typically for NGS sequencing applications, the growth of the market is driven by both existing market leaders such as Illumina Inc. and new entries like Thermo Fisher Scientific, QIAGEN and BGI- Shenzhen. For in-vitro diagnostic applications, the growth has been driven mainly by the entry of large diagnostic companies in the field such as Bio-Rad, Alere and Abbott."
In addition to those companies, among the major market participants cited in the report are AB SCIEX, Abaxis, Advion Biosciences, Agilent Technologies, Boehringer Ingelheim, Danaher, Fluidigm, GE Novasensor, Hamilton, Invitrogen, Johnson & Johnson, Konica Minolta Opto, Life Technologies, Pall Genesystems, PerkinElmer, Philips, Raindance Technologies, Roche Applied Science, Samsung, Shimadzu, Siemens, Sony DADC and Texas Instruments.