Frost and Sullivan finds technological innovation widens global application of mass spectrometry

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New analysis from Frost and Sullivan has found that the global mass spectrometry (MS) market is growing much faster than the high-end analytical instrumentation market. This shows that demand is high in this technologically-dynamic market despite limited capital budgets in academia and the economic uncertainty in the USA and Europe.

The analysis has shown that the market earned revenue of $1.7 billion in 2012 and it is estimated that it will reach $2.5 billion in 2017. These figures cover MS and liquid chromatography (LC) instruments, including single quadrupole LC/MS, tandem LC/MS (triple quadrupole and ion trap), time-of-flight LC/MS, and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionisation time-of-flight.

The substantial number of mass spectrometers that entered the market over the past two years shows both the fast pace of technological advancements, particularly in triple quadrupole LC/MS and Q-TOF, and the strong demand for these platforms. Several product launches with substantial improvements in sensitivity, resolution, speed and throughput are spurring high-end customers to upgrade instruments more often to avoid obsolete platforms.

Christi Bird, Frost and Sullivan life sciences senior industry analyst, said: ‘Strong research and development efforts by equipment manufacturers have enabled improved qualitative and quantitative capabilities, giving rise to new applications.’ Bird added: ‘The increasing acceptance of MS in clinical diagnostics, applied testing in emerging economies and its expanding use along the drug development pipeline are driving the market.’

Despite the push to further enlarge the customer base by widening the instrument pricing range, mass spectrometers remain expensive and therefore, cost-prohibitive for many laboratories. In the USA, sequestration measures and lack of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant compel MS suppliers to rely heavily on the more stable pharmaceutical, biotechnology, applied and industrial sectors, as well as emerging geographical regions for growth. However, the US market offers the most potential for early clinical acceptance.

Suppliers continue to find pockets of growth by integrating multiple technologies, developing clinically-focused instruments, and diminishing performance trade-offs. In addition, competitors are looking to adopt the general life sciences trend of miniaturisation to bring the technology to lower-budget laboratories.

Bird explained: ‘Once budget conditions improve for small to mid-size laboratories, suppliers will shift attention to developing stripped-down, lower throughput, personal MS instruments with a smaller footprint and corresponding price tags that will appeal to a larger consumer base.’

For now, strong growth in the Asia-Pacific and rest-of-world regions will help offset lower growth in other regions. The overall market is also expected to see a rise in mergers and acquisitions and partnership activity between MS and diagnostic companies, in order to develop advanced products and gain early market share and brand awareness in the clinical community.