Vital Signs: Automation and Application Trends Drive Growth in Sample Preparation Markets
Sample preparation remains one of the largest headaches and bottlenecks in research, but is crucial to the success of downstream applications. The sample quality that emerges from preparation tasks, like nucleic acid or protein isolation and purification, pipetting, and other liquid handling requirements, can highly affect the accuracy of research. If these tasks are not preformed properly, they can impair entire projects and cost laboratories thousands of research dollars in having to duplicate work, or perhaps worse yet, waste precious samples that cannot be restored. Given the higher scrutiny on research data accuracy; stricter quality standards in applied markets like clinical testing, forensics, and food and beverage testing; and a greater focus on laboratory efficiency, labs continue to move toward automated sample preparation methods. Instruments for automated nucleic acid purification and isolation (NAPI), liquid handling, and library preparation for next-generation sequencing (NGS) are gaining popularity in response. In addition to delivering higher-quality prepared samples, advantages of these systems over manual tasks include the reduction of human error, significantly less hands-on time required, speed, increased throughput, reproducibility, reliability, and increased laboratory efficiency.
While automation has been standard in many organizations for years, including most pharmaceutical and biotechnology settings, many laboratories viewed automation as an expensive luxury item. Why buy an expensive instrument when you have graduate students and lab technicians that can do it cheaply in a manual fashion? However, the launch of more affordable benchtop sample preparation instruments, along with greater scrutiny on research accuracy driven by an increase in scientific publication retractions, are two of the reasons that view has started to change. Meanwhile, downstream application trends are constantly evolving, driving new product development in upstream sample preparation and often increasing sample throughput. Automation and application trends are the main drivers across the liquid handling and nucleic acid purification markets, keeping these seemingly mature markets growing at steady single digits. Here we discuss the many factors impacting these sample preparation markets and take a look at market metrics.
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