Going with the flow

Microfluidic device market expected to grow to $5.7 billion by 2018

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LYON, France—Yole Développement, in its new technology andmarket analysis, "Microfluidic applications in the pharmaceutical, lifesciences, in-vitro diagnostic andmedical device markets," predicts the microfluidic devices market will growswiftly from $1.4 billion in 2013 to $5.7 billion by 2018.

According to Benjamin Roussel, a technology and market analyst of microfluidicsand medical technologies at Yole, "This impressive 27-percent growth will befueled mainly by pharmaceutical research and point-of-care applications."Microfluidic devices are components used to accurately control a tiny volume ofliquid, Roussel points out.

"When we talk about the microfluidic device market, it's really the market ofmicrofluidic components without biological contents/reagents," he notes.

Applications in in-vitro diagnosticsinclude point-of-care patient testing, with other applications inpharmaceutical and life-science research for drug discovery/screening as wellas proteomics and genomics assays. The devices are also used for mass spec andchromatographic sample preparation. Other applications include the medicaldevices market where microfluidic components are used for drug delivery ininhalers, microneedles and implantable micropumps. Finally, in industrial andenvironmental testing, microfluidic-based tests are used for process andquality control, water testing (e.g.,pesticides and bacteria) and in military and security applications.

The advantages and motivations for adopting microfluidic technologies arehighly dependent on the targeted application. For example, the added value ofmicrofluidic devices in point-of-care applications depends on the associatedsmall volume of necessary reagents, low-cost disposables and high sensitivity.In a different context, the advantages for pharmaceutical research applicationsare 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 becomingthe reference substrate for point-of-care applications, glass is still the mainsubstrate for analytical devices. The penetration rate of each substrate versusmicrofluidic application is presented in the report. Recently, the material mixhas shifted toward silicon due to the need to add new on-chip functions linkedto emerging applications, the report notes.

"Changes in material mix present exciting opportunities for new playersentering the microfluidic market," Roussel states. "For example, the highgrowth rate of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies is opening newdoors for silicon players."

In fact, he notes, "Today, the market for NGS technologies is booming. Keydiagnostic players are entering the field through expensive acquisitions,opening what we call the 'sequencing race,' and most of the platforms usemicrofluidic consumables to support the test. We foresee a CAGR around35 percent for the microfluidic devices dedicated to pharmaceutical researchover the next five years. NGS technologies will contribute significantly tothat impressive growth.

"Generally speaking, I would say that growth is being driven by a mix of newentries to the market, as well as from existing market leaders, but the answerhighly depends on the sub-market considered," Roussel continues. "Typically forNGS sequencing applications, the growth of the market is driven by bothexisting market leaders such as Illumina Inc. and new entries like ThermoFisher Scientific, QIAGEN and BGI-Shenzhen. For in-vitro diagnostic applications, the growth has been driven mainlyby the entry of large diagnostic companies in the field such as Bio-Rad, Alereand Abbott."

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