Used in a wide variety of technologies and applications, research antibodies are major money-makers for life science tool companies, generating 2011 revenues of $1.6 billion globally. Antibodies are critical to many widely-used technologies, including western blots, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA), immunohistochemistry (IHC), flow cytometry, and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP), to name a few. Over 300 suppliers worldwide offer over half a million different types of research antibodies. Yet, even with a huge competitor base and a flood of antibodies available, competition remains fierce, with new suppliers entering the market every year, which is good news for researchers looking for the highest quality products. Scientists continue to expand the applications enabled by antibody-based technologies, demanding the development of antibodies for new targets of interest and rarely-studied species.
The Scientist and Frost & Sullivan recently conducted an online survey in order to better understand the marketplace for research antibodies. The survey captures the purchasing, budget, application, and technology trends of research antibody use. Additionally, the survey determines customer ratings of suppliers, supplier usage, unmet needs, and challenges. A total of 1,155 subscribers of The Scientist qualified for the survey based on their purchasing roles for research antibodies, current use of antibodies, or planned use of antibodies within the next 12 months. These respondents represent academic institutions, federal and state government laboratories, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and diagnostic companies, hospital and clinical laboratories, and private non-profit organizations globally. The figures below present the demographics of this survey.
Survey participants reveal that 88 percent of their laboratories currently use research antibodies, while 12 percent plan to use research antibodies in the next 12 months. Current users of research antibodies were asked to indicate the types of antibodies they utilize in their laboratory research from a list of over 25 categories. Antibodies for studying cell signaling/signal transduction and membrane receptors are the most popularly employed among current users, with transcription factors and intracellular proteins coming in close behind.
Antibodies remain critical components in a wide range of research technologies. By far the most commonly used application for research antibodies is western blot, as over three-quarters of respondents employed this technique in 2011 and plan to continue using it in 2012. Beyond western blot, fluorescence microscopy and immunofluorescence were also popular, and immunoprecipitation is expected to be adopted at the fastest rate in 2012. However, microarrays and electron microscopy are two technologies that did not crack the top ten in current usage. Researchers also provided information on which antibody suppliers they used within the past 12 months, and were asked to rate their overall antibody purchasing experiences with these companies. The three most popularly used suppliers of research antibodies were Sigma-Aldrich, Santa Cruz Biotechnology, and Abcam. Interestingly, less-used suppliers such as Cell Signaling Technology, BioLegend, and eBioscience were the three most highly-rated companies. Specifically, Abcam falls within the top 15 of customer-rated antibody suppliers, but Santa Cruz Biotechnology and Sigma-Aldrich receive much lower positive ratings (12 percent and 20 percent of customers, respectively, assign them an excellent rating)..