Growing Competition in the Next-Generation DNA-Sequencing Market July 2016
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In March 2016, MarketsandMarkets analysts estimated that the next-generation DNA-sequencing (NGS) market was worth $4 billion and predicted the market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 20.8% between 2016 and 2021. The abundance of DNA-sequencing methods—from clonal amplification and synthesis to solid-state and protein-based nanopore sequencing—and their advantages—including high accuracy, low cost, and the ability to sequence a range of genomes from bacteria to human—create opportunities for NGS in a range of applications. Such applications include research and development in personalized medicine, drug discovery, cancer research, food-contamination testing, crop protection, and environmental monitoring. The growth in the NGS industry is resulting in a diversification of business models and strategies at both the company and national levels.
As the market for DNA sequencing grows—influenced by the decline in the technology's cost—the competition for a dominant, easy-to-use sequencer is likely to increase. In this regard, handheld nanopore-sequencing devices are likely to upset the market for benchtop sequencers. Recently, Oxford Nanopore Technologies announced a new benchtop product—PromethION—that has the capacity to store data equivalent to 40 human genomes. The company opened registration for the PromethION Early Access Programme in early 2016, before it launches the sequencer on the market later in the year. Additionally, research institutes are developing software compatible with nanopore sequencers. Researchers at the Genome Institute of Singapore developed an algorithm to make the analysis and interpretation of data from the nanopore sequencing more accessible to scientists.
The competition between organizations seeking to gain a foothold in the fast-developing market for NGS is waging on multiple battlefields. First, some organizations are focusing on introducing inexpensive sequencing devices in routine medical checkups and as DNA-sequencing-based medical treatments. Grail (a spin-off company from Illumina) is developing such sequencing technology that allows doctors to test a patient's blood to detect types of cancer before symptoms appear. The test is set to reach the market in 2019. Other organizations focus on commodifying genomic data by making it available to research laboratories worldwide. For example, BGI announced its plans to open, in September 2016, a gene bank—China National Genebank—that will store millions of animal (including human), plant, and microbe genomes.
Second, governments are also looking to capitalize on DNA sequencing. In March 2016, China announced its investment in a 15-year precision-medicine initiative to sequence the genomes of 1 million people, 1 million plants and animals, and 1 million microbial systems. Similarly, the United Kingdom launched a project to sequence 100,000 genomes, and the United States invested $215 million in an initiative to sequence 1 million human genomes.
The optimization of sequencers and their software, as well as the involvement of governments and collaborations between biotechnology companies and medical specialists, will be of utmost importance for the success of DNA-sequencing technology.