Pharma/Biotech Researchers Predict 2011 Growth in Structural Biology

The key roles that membrane proteins play in cell signaling, cell permeability, and motility make them prime targets for drug developers and biologists studying the fundamental processes of cells, tissues, and organs.  Our new report, Exploring Structural Biology: Tools and Techniques Used in the Study of Membrane Protein Structure provides a roadmap for suppliers who seek to explore new market opportunities.  We examine in detail the challenges, opportunities, and technical advances of the membrane protein field through the survey responses of several hundred researchers, and provides valuable insights into the needs, preferences, and buying behaviors of these scientists for life science instrument and consumable product suppliers.

Working with membrane proteins can be difficult. When integral membrane proteins are removed from the biphasic environment of the membrane and suspended in aqueous solutions, they can aggregate and denature. This unfortunate tendency makes crystallization difficult, and only a few hundred membrane protein structures have been solved. However, recent advances in expression, solubilization, purification, and computational modeling of membrane proteins are allowing membrane protein researchers to take advantage of methods that were previously restricted to water-soluble proteins, and the rate at which membrane protein structures are solved is predicted to greatly increase.

Defective membrane proteins are involved in a number of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological disorders.  Consequently, pharmaceutical companies have taken a huge interest in developing drugs to target these proteins, with over half of the therapeutics on the market today targeting membrane proteins (Arinaminpathy Y, et al. Computational analysis of membrane proteins: the largest class of drug targets. Drug Discov Today. 2009 December; 14 (23-24): 1130-1135). Despite this intense interest, many of the target proteins have not been properly identified and characterized. This means that drug companies looking to better understand the biology behind their drugs will continue to look to bio-tools companies to develop solutions ot help them discover new targets and new ways of treating diseases linked to membrane proteins.

Researchers in pharma/biotech responding to our survey reported having almost double the budget of academic and government respondents, and higher overall growth for FY2011 – making this an important segment for our clients’ business development activities.  Our pharma/biotech respondents also predict double-digit growth in allocated membrane structural biology research budget, while academic and government researchers predict that only the budget allocation for electrophoresis equipment and reagents and membrane protein extraction tools will grow significantly.  While the current state of government finances, industry consolidation, and the economy in general make any projection risky, suppliers would do well to note the large discrepancy in expectations between the two segments and adjust their sales and marketing budgets accordingly.

The detailed market research in this report will help our life science clients stay abreast of current research trends and challenges, guiding them in the right direction in this rapidly advancing and dynamic field.