Scientific Research Thought Leaders Give Cautiously Positive Outlook for Coming Year

For our latest issue, IBO spoke with representatives from leading analytical instrument and lab product trade organizations from around the globe. From Brexit to the diagnostics sector, IBO covered many topics while gleaning the perspectives, concerns and trends touted by experts and leaders in the lab instrument industry. While the outlook for the coming year is generally positive, trade organization representatives all raised similar topics of concern that are important to the future of innovation and development of lab products.

IBO had the opportunity to speak with Francis Pithon, vice chairman of EUROM II, the Optical and Laboratory Technology department within the European Federation of Precision Mechanical and Optical Industries, and vice president of Fabrilabo, an alliance between lab suppliers and purchasers; Mathis Kuchejda, president of both Schmidt+Haensch and of Analytical and Laboratory Technologies at SPECTARIS, a German industry association; Mike Bähren, head of Economics and Statistics at SPECTARIS; Takeshi Kawamoto, chairman of the International Affairs Committee for the Japan Analytical Instruments Manufacturers’ Association (JAIMA); Tim Collins, director of the Laboratory Technology Sector for GAMBICA, the UK trade association for instrumentation, control, automation and laboratory technology; and Mike Duff, president of the Analytical, Life Science and Diagnostics Association (ALDA).

Gaining a foothold in the digital arena is key for life science companies, as applying IoT into products and devices is the wave of the future. “Although digital has been slower to gain a foothold in medicine and health care than in other sectors, digital technologies offer the potential for improving the efficacy of R&D and enabling medical breakthroughs,” explained Mr. Duff. Digitization may also be central to various R&D processes. “A recent Morgan Stanley study concludes that digitization may hold the key to improving new drug development and supply chain management,” Mr. Duff continued. “For example, it concludes that researchers can employ digital tools in the front-end development process to select compounds, and perform preclinical and disease modeling and apply AI to analyze large-scale clinical trial datasets.”

“Acquisitions present a way for many life science companies to develop a presence in the diagnostics area.”

There are many trends within the life science and chemical analysis market that are changing the landscape of the industry, especially the digitization of the lab. Remote monitoring platforms and devices integrated with artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming part of companies’ product offerings and helping boost lab productivity.  As Mr. Collins explained, “Commercial insight to big data will be a revenue driver. For more basic types of equipment, the opportunities are less and relate more to the monitoring aspects of operation—these are being developed and seen firstly as a competitive advantage and later on as a necessity, as the role of facilities management companies increases.” Digital tools for labs also include new ways of ordering products and tracking lab suppliers, and thus how companies interact with customers. “Business has moved to be more online, both [on] websites and virtual marketplaces via Science Warehouse, SciQuest, etc.,” he added.

Another trend, M&A of scientific instrument companies, is also advancing. “M&A will continue as many larger companies look to acquisitions to gain access to technologies they have been unable to or have chosen not to develop internally, and to expand and fill out their product portfolios,” Mr. Duff said. “For smaller companies, acquisitions also are attractive since they enable faster growth to reach a size that supports a global business, as well as a means to expand their product portfolios. Acquisitions also present a way for many life science companies to develop a presence in the diagnostics area.”

This increasing M&A activity is impacting the way in which companies manufacture products in certain regions. In France, for example, consolidation is changing the face of the industry, as Mr. Pithon explained. “As far as I know, 15 international companies provide 75% of the world market,” he said, regarding both research and IVD system providers. He noted that there are currently fewer French instrument and lab products companies than in past decades, as most of them have been purchased by international companies that have closed their manufacturing facilities in France. “Today, France imports 80% of the equipment needed,” he continued. “There are some SMEs that are growing, but they find it difficult to export with very little help [from] the French government.”

“Advances in the development of analytical technologies and instruments promise to improve probabilities of success, reduce structural costs [and] shorten development times.”

As new clinical applications continue to emerge, many scientific instrument companies that have previously stayed within the research markets are moving towards the diagnostics markets. As Mr. Kawamoto indicated, the genomic panel and pathology research markets are undergoing a vast transformation in Japan, especially in response to advances in digital technologies, and are proving to be major sales growth opportunities. Disease prevention is also a key focus. “From health care focused on treatment, inroads are being made worldwide in prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, and individualized medical care,” he said. “As these advances go forward, Japanese manufacturers will closely watch [the] acceleration of the development of breakthrough drugs and diagnostic technologies. Examples that may be cited include the search for biomarkers and the ascertaining of intracellular molecular states of diseased cells.”

Increasing productivity within the pharmaceutical industry is also a trend in Japan. “Streamlining of pharmaceuticals development [is important],” noted Mr. Kawamoto. “Advances in the development of analytical technologies and instruments promise to improve probabilities of success, reduce structural costs [and] shorten development times.”

For additional information and in-depth interviews, see IBO’s “Fall 2018 Business Climate Review: Positivity Despite Uncertainties” article in the current issue.