Enabling Technologies
Trends in the microRNA Marketplace
Trends in the microRNA Marketplace
By Kathy Gray and Dr Enal Razvi
Spring 08

In this article, a recent market analysis is discussed aimed at understanding the market landscape, trends and opportunity in the rapidly-expanding microRNA marketplace. These market analyses are presented in detail in a recently published MicroRNA 2008 market report.

MicroRNAs are receiving extensive research attention lately given their putative role in a number of different biological processes. Almost every single life science research journal has published papers relating to microRNAs in different biological processes and it is important to note that these papers address topics such as various cancers, stem cells, embryonic development, biomarkers for different disease areas (especially cancer), and the role of microRNAs as oncogenes or tumour suppressors.

In short, microRNAs appear to impact a variety of biological processes and the fact that a given microRNA may impact several genes implies that microRNAs can affect entire biological pathways and alter a biological state. This is the primary reason microRNA research is growing exponentially – researchers worldwide are finding that microRNAs affect their biological system and they are beginning to study them.

The market landscape for microRNAs is uncharacterised for the following reasons:

- They represent a brand-new research area.
- New research tools are being developed to study them, or existing technologies are being retooled.
- The research is happening across the globe.
- The research is happening across various disciplines – basic science, research into microRNAs and other small non-coding RNAs, cancer researchers from the clinic, vendors seeking to develop diagnostics and therapeutics.

Select Biosciences has addressed this need and has published recently its MicroRNA 2008 Market Report (publication date: January 2008). This report covers the technology and business areas in the microRNAs space with emphasis upon the market landscape and the various products impacting the marketplace.

Also contained in the report is primary market analysis data derived from enduser surveys that have been performed on researchers and end-users worldwide – these surveys have enabled the identification of qualitative and quantitative market trends and are reported along with unmet market needs and opportunities.

MicroRNA market analyses performed by Select Biosciences that are presented in its recent market report cover the following topics shown in Extract 1 below:

Extract 1 Executive overview of microRNA space, products and services, market analysis, and diagnostics and therapeutics trends

Primary market analysis – the microRNA marketplace

Select Biosciences performed end-user surveys of researchers worldwide to understand their research practices. The researchers surveyed represented the global community and therefore our conclusions from these analyses can be extrapolated to the worldwide research community. Figure 1 presents the geographic distribution of researchers that we surveyed.

Figure 1 Geographic distribution of researchers surveyed

We wondered what kinds of areas the microRNA research community was focused upon today in their research efforts. The data presented in Figure 2 show that the majority of research efforts are happening in human, followed by mouse models.

These data show that the majority of research, as well as many of the tools developed by the various vendors, are designed for studies on human microRNAs, even though many researchers are studying mouse and they are requesting the vendors to produce these research tools. As in many other life science research areas, the studies on model organisms need to be supplemented with research on human cells and this accounts for the trends see in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Trends in RNA, pie chart showing proportions, viral, rat, mouse, human and other

Also driving the use of human cells and microRNAs is the research interest on microRNAs in human cancers. In order to more fully map the various research activities in the microRNA space, we sought to classify researchers in terms of their primary research activity with respect to microRNAs. The results are presented in Figure 3.

Figure 3 Breakout for researchers worldwide in their studies utilising microRNAs

Note from Figure 3 that the majority of the research community is studying microRNAs in cancer. When we analysed our data we found that this trend was operative at all geographic locations. Indeed, these results argue that the primary entry point for microRNA research tools vendors is in offering products geared at understanding the biology of microRNAs as they relate to cancer.

There is a significant percentage of researchers that are involved in studying microRNAs with the intent of developing diagnostics and therapeutics – we believe that the fraction of these researchers will grow over time as more biomarkers (microRNA signatures) are discovered with association to particular disease areas and as therapeutic targets.

Indeed, this is a trend we are observing strongly – the deployment of specific microRNAs into in vivo model systems where their biological significance can be studied and potentially their role as determinants in cancer and utility as biomarkers.

The research workflow

The current research workflow in microRNA space involves microRNA identification and cloning. This is done by a variety of means and most of the publicdomain microRNAs are deposited into the miRBase database administered by the Sanger Center in the UK (http://www.mirbase.org/). miRBase is the new home of microRNA data on the web, providing data previously accessible from the miRNA Registry.

The miRBase Sequence Database is a searchable database of published microRNA sequences and annotation. The miRBase Registry continues to provide gene hunters with unique names for novel microRNA genes prior to publication of results. The miRBase Targets Database is a new resource of predicted microRNA targets in animals.

Following in silico studies, researchers are moving towards microRNA expression profiling in their research samples – this is an area of significant revenue generation for the vendors in the microRNA research tools space and our report documents the various companies and their product offerings in detail. Figure 4 presents the breakout of the microRNA expression profiling market with respect to the types of technology platform utilised.

Figure 4 MicroRNA expression profiling market segmentation by type of technology utilised

 Note that PCR-based methods (predominantly qRT-PCR) are the mainstay of microRNA expression profiling today with a number of different market participants (see next section). The power of this approach is the adaptability that it affords – a given microRNA can be platformised into an assay very quickly. This flexibility is not possible with microRNA microarrays.

Vendors offering products into the microRNA research space

As part of our industry coverage, we have mapped the competitive landscape – companies offering products and services into the microRNA marketplace. Figure 5 illustrates a snapshot of this mapping where we present various microRNA research categories and indicate into which of these categories the different vendors offer their products and services.

Figure 5 Vendors into the microRNA research space and the market segments they serve

In summary, in this article we have sought to frame some of the market parameters of the evolving microRNA marketplace. Our continuing coverage of this marketplace enables us to identify trends and market opportunities, especially those emerging in the microRNA-based diagnostics and therapeutics spaces.

More details about SelectBio's market reports can be found at http://selectbiosciences.com/marketReports.aspx DDW


Kathy Gray is a biotech veteran with 25 years’ experience in the biotechnology industry. She is the worldwide co-ordinator for Select Biosciences syndicated market report production and customised market analyses. Kathy is based in the UK and can be contacted via e-mail at kathy.gray@ selectbiosciences.com.

Dr Enal Razvi received his doctoral degree in the biomedical sciences and completed his postdoctoral training at The Rockefeller University (New York, NY) and served as research fellow at Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA). Over the past decade, he has been involved with public and privately-held companies in various business development roles and continuously tracks various life science research tools markets.