The study of cells has been instrumental in understanding biological processes. Research on genes and proteins expressed in specific types of cells has typically been performed on samples containing many cells, with analysis reflecting the data averaged across them. But over the last several years, studies have indicated differences in cells of the same type or within the same population. Consequently, researchers are conducting single cell analysis to study the unique qualities of individual cells.
Although individual cells have been analyzed microscopically for quite some time to study cell morphology and behavior, more recent interest in genomics and proteomics has generated demand for analysis of genes and proteins within single cells. Development of tools for single-cell genomic studies has progressed, with the ability to amplify both DNA and RNA of individual cells, facilitating targeted DNA sequencing, miRNA analysis and gene-expression studies. Advances in flow cytometry, which uses fluorescent probes to detect expression of specific proteins in cells, have extended the capacities of the technique to better resolve expression of gene products in single cells. Such advancements in technology have enabled progression of single-cell analysis that provides unprecedented capabilities for systematically investigating cellular heterogeneity.
The intense interest of life science vendors in these developments is the motivation behind our latest report, The 2017 Market for Single Cell Analysis Products: Convergence of Microfluidics and Omics Platforms. For the purpose of this study, single cell analysis encompasses the application of genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, and/or metabolomic techniques to the analysis of isolated, individually partitioned single cells. These techniques, coupled with new methods for cell isolation/partitioning, support the interrogation of single cells at increased levels of scale and throughput than previously possible.
The excitement surrounding the ability to measure genomic, epigenomic, transcriptomic, and metabolic status in individual cells is reflected in the high level of commercial activity we’ve seen this year. The National Institutes of Health announced it was seeking grant applications from small businesses for the development and validation of next-generation single-cell analysis technologies and tools. Recently, Bio-Rad and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory sued 10x Genomics for patent infringement, saying that 10x Genomics’ GemCode and Chromium systems infringe on patents that Bio-Rad either owns or exclusively licenses from LLNL related to forming droplet emulsions in microfluidic chips. Bio-Rad Laboratories had already made it clear that the single cell analysis market was going to be a major area of focus this year by acquiring RainDance Technologies, which, primarily known for its droplet-based technologies for dPCR, has also been developing tools for single-cell analysis. Bio-Rad also partnered with Illumina to release a single-cell sequencing solution, designed to create a robust, scalable and user friendly workflow. Takara Bio USA acquired WaferGen Bio-systems, and the synergies between WaferGen’s products for isolating and processing single cells and Takara Bio’s RNA-seq and T-Cell Receptor profiling technologies present a host of new opportunities.
In this report, we focus solely on the application of single cell analysis for “omics” applications: genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics. This focus allows increased insight into trends within this space, including purchasing trends, budgets (down to the per experiment level), applications, specific customer needs, and future outlook. Other segments of the single cell analysis market include applications such as cell culture techniques for isolation of clonal populations for antibody production, imaging technologies to analyze single cells, and flow cytometry that allows multiparametric analysis of single cells in heterogenous cell populations. Omic-based single cell analysis is a rapidly expanding field, with 25% of interviewed respondents currently applying these methods and 42% looking to adopt this approach within the next 12 to 24 months.
The tumultuous competition and quickness of new developments shows no sign of stopping, and the number of labs working on omics-based single cell analysis continues to increase at a rapid pace. Let our report be your guidebook to the market and your consumer. Confidently plan future developments and increase your market share by understanding scientists’ needs and where you lie among the competition.
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