Planning for the Future: SAB Survey Gauges Scientists’ Priorities in 2018 Lab Budgets

As this year draws to a close, many labs at private sector biopharmaceutical companies and service providers are preparing budgets for 2018 and prioritizing their labs’ needs. According to a recent IBO survey, scientists indicated that lab materials, such as consumables and chemicals, are a purchasing priority in 2018, with the vast majority of respondents stating that they plan on upgrading their current instruments as opposed to purchasing brand new ones.

In a survey of 171 US-based scientists from contract research organizations and for-profit research institutions, conducted using BioInformatics LLC’s Scientific Advisory Board, respondents (see graphs below) shed light on what 2018 holds in regards to their lab budgets. The survey was conducted between December 19 and December 21, and has a +/- 7% margin of error at the 95% confidence interval.

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As traditional pharmaceutical labs study small molecules and biotechnology labs usually focus on large molecule research, this survey concentrated on SAB members working in these fields to assess the budgeting priorities of both types of labs. Interestingly, almost 60% of respondents indicated that they work with both small and large molecules, while approximately 22% and 13% work solely with large molecules and small molecules, respectively.

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Consumables Cited as Top Priority

In 2018, the purchase of lab materials is a priority for most survey participants. Over half, or 56%, of respondents plan on increasing their lab budgets for lab materials, such as consumables, reagents, media and other chemicals. The budget for non-analytical laboratory equipment, which is defined as instrumentation that does not measure a parameter, such as a centrifuge, is likely to remain the same for most participants, with 58% of respondents indicating no plans to increase or decrease their budgets for this category.

For analytical instruments that cost less than $50,000, 49% of participants plan to keep their budgets the same as 2017, while 39% expect to increase their budgets. Only 8% of respondents indicated that their budget for instruments under $50,000, such as a spectrophotometer, will decrease. Responses were similar in regards to the purchase of analytical instrumentation over $50,000, such as LCs, with 37% indicating an increase in their 2018 budgets and 43% expecting it to remain flat. However, 13% of respondents indicated that the purchases of instruments over $50,000 will decrease in 2018.

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Non-analytical Instrumentation Budgets Remain Flat

The results of the surveyed scientists’ 2018 budget plans are further explained when analyzing their purchasing priorities (see graph above). Seventy percent of respondents indicated that lab materials, such as consumables, are a top priority in planning their 2018 lab budgets. Non-analytical lab equipment was ranked as a somewhat low priority or a low priority for 61% of survey participants, clarifying why the budget for this category is likely to remain flat in 2018. Responses for the purchase of analytical instruments under $50,000 were mostly split between being a somewhat high priority and a somewhat low priority, with 35% and 37% of respondents indicating so, respectively. Almost half, or 46%, of all survey participants do not see analytical instrumentation costing over $50,000 as a priority, indicating why the category’s budget is expected to remain the same next year.

A majority of respondents are greatly satisfied with their lab budgets for next year, with 50% indicating that 2018 budgets match their needs (see graph below). Thirty-four percent of respondents prioritized cost savings in their budgets, while 2018 budgets exceeded the expectations for 8% of survey participants.

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Interestingly, a majority of respondents are more intent on upgrading existing analytical instruments than purchasing brand new instruments. Forty-five percent of survey participants plan to upgrade their analytical instruments, defined in the survey as acquiring a system that was already in their lab but has been improved to include greater capabilities and is consequently more expensive. Approximately 30% of respondents plan to purchase analytical instruments that have never been purchased by their labs before, and 25% expect to replace some of their analytical instruments with the latest or same model.

As lab budgets can give an indication on the priorities of researchers, survey results point to scientists making the most of their lab budgets in 2018, what with the majority of respondents planning to upgrade instruments and highlight consumables and media in their labs. Non-analytical lab equipment was indicated to be a low priority for many researchers, and with the substantial number of respondents prioritizing cost-savings in their budgets, the purchase of brand new or costly instrumentation also seems to be a lower priority for many of the scientists surveyed.


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