Separations: A Boost from Biotech and Pharma

The separations market far outperformed original estimates made at the beginning of last year. In fact, 2007 growth for the separations market was nearly two percentage points higher than the original forecast estimates. In 2007, the separations market accounted for $5.9 billion in sales and grew 7.1% over 2006, the fastest year over year growth rate this sector has experienced in over a decade. Separation techniques are used for analytical and purification applications spanning the industrial marketplace. Life science–related applications, pharmaceutical and biotechnology labs, and government and academic research continue to drive growth for this segment. Also, traditionally mature markets, such as petroleum, environmental and agriculture, each experienced somewhat of a resurgence in 2007, positively impacting overall growth. Strong growth in India, China and the Pacific Rim contributed greatly to the overall expansion of the separations market. Europe, Japan and the Middle East have also performed well, while the US posted modest gains. The 2007 growth was mainly due to the HPLC market, which accounted for an overwhelming majority of the total separations market. The HPLC market was particularly strong due to the proliferation of fast LC systems, which fulfill the growing demand for increased productivity and efficiency and provide new HPLC chemistries. System installations from Agilent, Dionex, Shimadzu and Waters continued to gain momentum. The HPLC market was also positively impacted by the exceptional growth of high-resolution mass spectrometry (MS) techniques. Advancements in LC/MS technologies continue to promote innovative research activities in proteomics, biomarker research and drug discovery. Gas chromatography (GC) is the second largest separations market, accounting for about 23% of the market in 2007. GC is among the most widely used of all analytical instruments and is especially useful in environmental testing, petroleum and forensic applications. GCs are generally a replacement market, particularly in North America and Europe, which accounted for a significant share of the market. Overall, the GC market is expected to be flat in 2008, but solid growth is forecasted in the petroleum, agriculture and food, and environmental industries. Growth in China and other Pacific Rim countries will also drive GC sales. Ion chromatography (IC), which accounted for 6% of the separations market in 2007, is expected to post the fastest growth in 2008 among separation techniques. The IC market is focused on industrial and environmental applications and is expected to benefit from the growth in Asia. Low pressure LC (LPLC), which accounted for 5% of the market in 2007, is primarily used in the study of biomolecules, such as proteins and monoclonal antibodies in their natural state. LPLC is mainly an aftermarket business; the main consumables are media supplied by leading vendors GE Healthcare and Bio-Rad Laboratories. Capillary electrophoresis (CE) is experiencing renewed growth and should grow about 8% in 2008. Microfluidic-based CE systems continue to fuel demand, especially for genomic and proteomic applications. The market for traditional benchtop CE systems also continues to expand, especially with the introduction of application-specific systems. Other techniques represent a smaller portion of the separations market. Flash chromatography is expected to grow 7% in 2008, fueled by parallel separations of organic and small molecules. Other techniques include thin layer chromatography, continuous flow and chemical sensors, which collectively accounted for only 2.3% of the separations market in 2007, but are expected to grow 7.9% in 2008.

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