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Market profile: biosensors.

For the most part, life science researchers have relied on fluorescent and radioactivity to measure molecular interactions. They offer the necessary flexibility and robustness. Also, the applications are well established for low- to high-throughput assays. However, these methods are far from perfect. A disadvantage of fluorescent detection systems is that they lack sensitivity, especially when measuring protein interactions.

Biosensors offer a label-free technique to measure molecular interactions by converting a biological response into an electrical signal. The biological response of a biosensor is determined by the biocatalytic membrane, which converts the substrate to a molecular product. The transducer then detects the physical changes that accompany the biological reaction. The changes measured can be calorimetric (heat output), potentiometric (charge distribution), amperometric (redox), optical (light output) or piezoelectric (mass).

Most commercialized biosensors utilize optical response by either light output or absorption. Surface plasmon resonance (SPR) has emerged as the leading biosensor technology, a market that is dominated by Sweden-based Biacore. Fundamentally, SPR detects changes in mass from the aqueous layer by measuring changes in refractive index. When molecules in solution bind to the target molecule, the mass increases and, when they dissociate, the mass decreases.

But SPR is a relatively slow and expensive technique and has faced challenges addressing high-throughput applications. Other biosensor technologies are overcoming these shortfalls and are now beginning to have an impact on the biosensor market. In fact, non-SPR based techniques are estimated to account for more than 10% of the total biosensor market.

Last year, Biacore acquired HTS Biosystems (see IBO 3/15/05), whose microarray technology based on SPR can monitor up to 400 interactions in less than three hours. The system consists of a diffraction grating-coupled SPR that records images of the entire microarray surface. Developed by SRU Biosystems, microplate-based BIND Reader uses a proprietary nanostructured optical grating technology. When white light is shined onto the biosensor, the system measures the reflected light as molecules bind to the surface.

Axela offers a biosensor system based on diffractive optics technology. When molecules bind to proteins on the biosensor surface, the height of the complex increases, creating a change in diffraction, which is then measured. Because the measurement does not require the laser to pass through the sample, the technology is particularly useful for non-translucent samples like whole blood. Akubio's biosensor uses resonant acoustic profiling technology, which utilizes quartz crystals' piezoelectric properties to measure specificity, affinity, kinetics and concentration. The use of biosensors by industry is increasing, and lower-cost, higher-throughput systems should grow the total market.

Biosensors at a Glance:

Leading Suppliers

* Biacore

* SRU Biosystems

* Sapidyne

Largest Markets

* Academia

* Biotech/Pharma

* Agri./Food & Beverage

Instrument Cost

* $30,000-$300,000
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Publication:Instrument Business Outlook
Date:Jan 31, 2006
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