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Tools of the trade
After several decades of groundbreaking findings, researchers now more than ever before are commencing, broadening or accelerating their examination of stem cells—and for new stem cell insights to continually emerge, the biomedical research community demands constant support from life science research tool suppliers, according to a recent report by market research firm Frost & Sullivan.
The July 2010 report, "Strategic Analysis of End-user Preferences in the U.S. Stem Cell Research Tools Markets," measures brand perceptions of tools and technologies currently at the forefront of stem cell research specifically. Additionally, the study measures perceptions of equipment manufacturers for their service, quality and value as well as current and future plans for stem cell research.
"Additional advancements in stem cell research are unattainable without innovative and cost-effective technologies that deliver reliable and reproducible results," Frost & Sullivan notes in its report. "With superior customer service and a wide portfolio of high- quality and valuable products, life science research tool suppliers can have an enormous impact on stem cell research progress."
According to the firm, there are five major categories of life science technologies needed for stem cell research: Bio- imaging and microscopy, cell biology tools, immunochemicals, molecular biology tools and protein biochemistry tools.
Bio-imaging and microscopy products include: chemilluminescence imaging; confocal microscopes; fluorescence microscopes; fluorometer/fluorescence detection instruments; in-vivo imaging systems (small animal imaging systems); infrared imaging (FTIR/IR imaging); laser capture microdissection/laser microdissection; live cell imaging; microscope slide scanner/digital pathology (digital histology); molecular imaging; multiplex assay systems/fluorescence multiplex arrays; and others. Top tool providers in this area, according to Frost & Sullivan's survey, include Carl Zeiss Inc., Nikon Corp. and Olympus America Inc. Other high-ranking companies, according to the survey, include Amnis Corp., Applied Biosystems, BD Biosciences, Kodak and Leica Microsystems.
Cell biology tools include: cell analysis equipment; cell culture equipment, media and reagents; cell isolation tools; cell proliferation tools; cell signal transduction tools; cell-based assay design and development tools; cell-based assay kits, cells and cell lines; flow cytometry; infectious agents; research animals and accessories; serum; stem cell culture reagents; and transfection tools. Frost & Sullivan's survey found that above all suppliers, Invitrogen ranks first in terms of customer service, product quality, best cost and best value. Other suppliers ranking high in the survey include BD Biosciences; Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc.; EMD Biosciences; Lonza; Promega; Sigma-Aldrich Co. LLC; StemCell Technologies; and Thermo Fisher Scientific/Cellomics.
Immunochemicals include: antibodies; cytokines, chemokines and growth factors; ELISA and multiplexed ELISAs; enzymes; histochemistry/immunohistochemistry tools; immunoassays; and immunoglobulins. According to Frost & Sullivan, Abcam PLC leads as the primary supplier of immunochemicals, followed closely by Invitrogen and Santa Cruz Biotechnology Inc. Other top-ranking suppliers in this category include: AbD Serotec; Active Motif; BD Biosciences; Cell Signaling Technology; Millipore; R&D Systems; Rockland Immunochemicals; and Signalway Antibody Co.
Molecular biology tools include: cloning and expression tools; DNA sequencing; microarray scanners; microarrays; molecular biology reagents; nucleic acid analysis tools, labeling and purification tools; PCR/real-time PCR; RNAi technology (siRNA/miRNA/shRNA); and other genomics tools. Again, Frost & Sullivan's survey ranked Invitrogen as the top supplier in this category. Other top-ranking suppliers, according to the survey, include: Applied Biosystems; Clontech; Millipore; New England Biolabs; Promega; QIAGEN; Roche Applied Science; and Thermo Fisher Scientific/Cellomics.
Protein biochemistry tools include: biochemistry reagents; chromatography equipment, media and columns; protein analysis/protein characterization tools; protein expression, modification and purification tools; other proteomics tools; Western blotting tools; and mass spectrometry. Frost & Sullivan's survey ranked Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc. as the top supplier in this category. Other companies gaining favor from survey respondents include: Abnova; EMD Biosciences; GE Healthcare; Invitrogen; Millipore; Promega; Sigma-Aldrich; and Thermo Fisher Scientific.
The market for tool suppliers is expected to grow as human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research "is allowed to blossom as an industry," says Jonathan Witonsky, industry manager of Frost & Sullivan's Drug Discovery Technologies & Clinical Diagnostics division.
"One thing to keep in mind is that with a lot of researchers we talk to, they are not necessarily looking solely at hESCs. So some of the controversy does not necessarily represent a major drawback for these product categories, but at the same time, as research progresses, it will drive more demand for these tools," he adds.
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