Until the last decade, application of genomics was restricted to academic research. With the advent of innovative technologies in DNA sequencing and gene expression, the key focus of genomics has shifted to drug discovery and agricultural research. The success of various research projects in utilizing genomic research for personalized medicine and molecular diagnostics is expected to increase the penetration of genetic testing in these application areas. Genomics-related testing also enables researchers to obtain accurate diagnosis of various life-threatening diseases. Moreover, government initiatives and notable pipeline projects on personalized medicine are expected to support this paradigm shift in the coming years.
The governments of several nations have made significant investments in the genomics market to promote genomics technologies in various applications. The Department of Health, U.K. set up ‘Genomics England,’ a 100k genome project, in 2012 to sequence DNA codes for 100,000 patients in the next five years. In 2013, the U.S. government sanctioned a $25 million National Institute of Health (NIH) grant to investigate the use of whole genome sequencing in screening new born babies for disorders.
Considering various technologies in whole genome sequencing, next-generation sequencing platforms have witnessed significant adoption post the commercialization of second-generation DNA sequencing systems in mid 2000s. Sequencing by synthesis technology (SBS) is expected to grow at a higher rate amongst other second-generation sequencing methods, due to its high accuracy and cost effectiveness. Single-Molecule Real-Time (SMR) Technology is part of third-generation sequencing; it provides increased accuracy and eliminates the need for amplification. This technology segment is expected to grow at a lower rate, due to the fact that it is more expensive than second-generation sequencing methods. The Oxford Nanopore technology is an emerging sequencing technology, which has the capacity to provide whole genome scanning in 15 minutes, at low costs. This is expected to drive the growth of the DNA sequencing market in the future.
Developments in sequencing technologies have enabled faster processing speeds. Current DNA sequencers with sequencing-specific chips are capable of basic decoding in a single day, and this is expected to be further reduced to a matter of hours in the near future. In addition to enhanced processing speeds, process optimization in DNA sequencing is an expected future trend. The acquisition of Ingenuity Systems, Inc. by QIAGEN in October 2013 was a step towards the provision of a completely integrated NGS workflow package, which optimizes all processes involved in DNA sequencing—from sample preparation to data analysis. Thus, the future of DNA sequencing technologies is expected to enable shorter processing times and complete process workflow integration in the coming years.
Despite the technological advances in genomics, significant capital investments in enabling genomic testing capabilities have proved to be a restraining factor for market growth in low- to middle-income countries. Meager healthcare allocation in developing and under-developed nations inhibits the adoption of genomics technologies. A significant increase in the number of mergers and acquisitions in the last decade indicates that dominant market players such as Illumina and Life Technologies (Thermo Fischer) focus on business consolidation through forward and backward integration. This trend is expected to increase the entry barriers in the genomics market.
Since 2004, the key restructuring motive for market players in the global genomics market was identified as portfolio expansion. Tier I and II companies were found to be active in acquiring companies. The number of acquisitions by Tier I and Tier II companies increased from 22 (2006 to 2009) to 38 (2010 to 2013). The most recent notable development involved Thermo Fisher’s acquisition of Life Technologies for $13.6 billion, in addition to its net debt of $2.2 billion as of 2012. This acquisition is expected to significantly consolidate the global genomics market in 2014.