Science and Medicine Group Makes 2021 Predictions for the Lab Instrumentation, Diagnostics and Imaging Industries

The unpredictable events of 2020 might cause one to forswear all prediction-making. Yet for Science and Medicine Group’s publishing brands (Strategic Directions International, BioInformatics, Kalorama Information, IMV, Instrument Business Outlook) are all in the business of prediction-making. Thus once again, we offer our top ten predictions for 2021 based on our market research publications:

  1. Recovery in Academic and Lab Markets: 2020 was obviously an atypical year, and for analytical and life science instrumentation markets (chromatography, spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and other technologies) 2021 will also be atypical as a year of recovery. Academic and government lab budgets are expected to take more than one year to recover, since public funding has been so impacted by lower tax revenues and new spending priorities to directly address the COVID-19 crisis. This is from Strategic Directions International (SDI), authors of the The 2020 Global Assessment Report: The Laboratory Analytical & Life Science Instrumentation Industry, which offers market forecasts for over 80 scientific tool segments.
  2. Growth Will Be Weighted Toward Asia: The current resurgence of the pandemic in the US and Europe will delay the recovery of these markets in 2021. But many Asia Pacific countries that were more successful in suppressing the disease are already seeing increased demand for lab instrumentation and equipment.
  3. M&A Wil Accelerate for Instrument Companies: Instrument Business Outlook (IBO), the premier newsletter for instrument executives, expects M&A activity to increase in 2021. Although the COVID-19 outbreak may have slowed M&A activity earlier this year, that changed late in the year. The largest deals in the cell-based instrument market in 2020 came from 10x Genomics and Bio-Rad Laboratories and were focused on single-cell analysis. 10x Genomics purchased two companies in the spatial analysis space, including its $350 million acquisition of ReadCoor, while Bio-Rad completed a $100 million deal for Celsee.
  4. Radiation Therapy Capital Purchases to Rise: Although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted 2020’s capital budgets for radiation therapy (RT) equipment, it is likely that investments are being shifted to 2021–2022. This is according to IMV’s RT Market Outlook. Going forward, higher than 25% of sites [25% of sites or 25% referring to some aspect of budget?] are planning capital budgets of $1 million or more in 2021 and 2022, compared to the 18%’ sites’ 2020 budgets.
  5. Urgent Care Provides a Perfect Outlet for COVID-19 Vaccines: Urgent care locations have grown over the past decade. Kalorama Information estimates the number of urgent care locations in the United States to be 9,900, growing from nearly 7,000 in 2013. The spectacular growth is driven by a need for more healthcare services, an increase in insured populations and resistance to physician office waiting times. Now, there is a new opportunity with new COVID-19 vaccines. “There is no better front-line for distribution of a widely utilized vaccine among a healthy population,” says Bruce Carlson, Publisher of Kalorama Information. “Of course, this will be supplemented by traditional vaccine outlets such as governments and physician offices. But urgent care offers walk-in, no previous-relationship service, which is ideal for a vaccine.” According to the market research firm’s report The U.S. Urgent Care Center Market,what distinguishes urgent care centers is that they are walk-in clinics offering extended-hour access for acute illness and injury care. Such care is either beyond the scope or availability of the typical primary care practice and offers more focused care than an emergency room would.
  6. Customized Retargeted Ads Will Help Instrument Companies Advertise Their Products: If they use it correctly, that is. According to The 2020 Best Practices for Advertising to Life Scientists: Online and in Print,a report conducted by BioInformatics, companies should pay attention to age and demographic preferences, and keep ads simple and benefit-messages concise. Audiences also will respond to retargeted ads, if they are done well. There is also generational differences in how audiences respond to ads. This is one of the many insights in the report, which essentially asked life scientists how they prefer to learn about new products.
  7. Antibody testing for COVID-19 Will Increase: This will be brought about by vaccine effectiveness, and address both the official studies of vaccine effectiveness and the informal checking by concerned individuals. Antibody testing was talked about last year in the midst of one of the heaviest periods of the COVID-19 crisis as a test used to “return to work.” That did not work out in terms of promoting [?] a great number of tests, but expect a resurgence.
  8. Applied Markets for Lab Instrumentation Will Grow: Labs doing applied testing, such as food and environmental analyses, are forecast to increase lab tool spending by 7%–8% in 2021 on average.
  9. New Instrument Entrants in Diagnostics Will “Stay In:” Expect more diagnostics investments by instrument companies as their COVID-19 solutions opened the door to clinical labs and partners they may not have worked with before. Bruker, PerkinElmer and Fluidigm are among the lab tool makers expanding their diagnostics businesses. QIAGEN recently announced that a huge increase in instrument placements in 2020 for COVID 19-testing will pay dividends for consumables sales in years to come.
  10. High-Sensitivity Troponin Point-of-CareTest Is Approval: Troponin can be a predictor of heart attacks and a marker of coronary disease status. hsTn assays are able to accurately measure 10-fold lower concentrations of cardiac troponin than contemporary assays. The use of high-sensitivity troponin in point-of-care (POC) settings, particularly emergency rooms, has shown promise. Although they have been used with COVID-19 patients to detect severity, there are no FDA approvals. A product from Quidel has gained CE Marking, and Abbott i-Stat’s test has shown high-sensitivity levels, though there is no predicting which brand or test will be the first POC hsTN.

What about last year’s predictions?

COVID-19 certainly threw last year’s predictions for a loop; for example, those about Asian markets in general, imaging volumes in the U.S., and multiphotonics and sequencing prep sales. Now, we extend those predictions to 2021. Others held, more or less, to be true: CAR-T therapy sales should near a billion dollars with final results still out; AI remains most useful in imaging applications; mass spectrometry is being brought to bear in COVID-19 detection; and hematology handhelds, while limited by COVID-19, continue to grow within the category of hematology tests.