As the technology advances and medicine grows more personalized, the overall health care market for microfluidics will swell to nearly $4 billion in 2020, showing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13 percent, according to a report from Lux Research.
Microfluidics can offer portable, cheap, single-use devices that replace centralized laboratory equipment in health care facilities, and open new point-of-care (POC) diagnostic opportunities.
Lux Research expects two types of companies to eventually dominate the microfluidics value chain—chip developers or manufacturers like miniFAB and Sony DADC, and device integrators like Agilent and Fluidigm.
"Growth in microfluidics adoption will depend on the region. In the developed world, it will mostly be the shift toward the patient-centric approaches to health care where the shorter time to result plays a huge role in cutting the costs, improving outcomes and keeping patients or consumers happy," Milos Todorovic, Lux research analyst and lead author of the report told eWEEK. "In the developing world, that will be a sheer need to fill the gap in technology available to providers and patients—infrastructure in those countries is poor—and in some places non-existent—so anything that becomes available at a price point these regions can tolerate will be welcomed."
Today, microfluidic devices are present in several health care applications, and POC diagnostics, clinical diagnostics, analytical devices, life sciences research, drug discovery and formulation, and drug delivery are among the biggest markets, Todorovic said.
"However, the advantages and motivations for adopting microfluidic technologies are highly dependent on the targeted application. For example, the added value of microfluidic devices in POC applications is driven by the associated small volume of necessary reagents, low-cost disposables and high sensitivity," he explained. "On the other hand, the advantages for pharmaceutical research applications are process automation, reduced drug discovery time and multiplexed assays."
POC diagnostics will show a 20 percent CAGR, driven by low-cost, portable diagnostics solutions for applications in infectious diseases and lifestyle-related conditions, while drug discovery and formulation will remain a leading use, with $1.2 billion in 2020.
"We do not foresee any current applications of microfluidics becoming dominant in the next decade, and it is unlikely that radically different materials, manufacturing and integration needs will emerge," Todorovic said. "In the short term, standardization at the component or device level is highly unlikely; some efforts may result in standardized intra-device component interfaces and interfaces to the outside world."
End device integrators that bring together device design, manufacturing and microfluidics devices will capture nearly 50 percent of the profit pool.
Material suppliers will account for about a quarter, while sensing solutions, manufacturing and design services share the rest.