What will be the next big thing to drive growth in the bio-tools industry? Will it be epigenetics? Gene regulation is now a focus of many drug development programs within the pharmaceutical industry. The past five years have seen the genesis of many new companies dedicating their focus to products and services tailored to monitoring gene regulation by methylation, histone modifications, gene copy number monitoring, and non-coding RNAs. Though the promise is genuine it may be a bit early for epigenetics to capture the title of the next big thing on it’s own. Stay tuned.

Then there is genetic analysis which has been heating up considerably. As genotyping and nextgen sequencing platform technologies battle for supremacy has there been a surprise flanking maneuver by Life Technologies with the announced acquisition of Ion Torrent? Will this break open the market with affordable mid-scale benchtop sequencing? Or will 23andme make Illumina’s genotyping platform the topic of conversations around the dinner table? Time will tell.

Finally, the personalized medicine revolution that seemed to reach the peak of industrial hype over a decade ago with the co-launch of the HercepTest and Herceptin (Dako and Genentech) is starting to live up to the promise. Most disease has long been recognized to be multigenic in origin and treatments are frequently not a one-size-fits-all solution. Pharma has now embraced the long resisted concept of segmenting their markets through the use of co-marketed drug/diagnostic combos that preselect for responsive populations for their latest drugs resulting in greater efficacy and actual improvements in health care. This is a step in the right direction and the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry and patients needing the new therapy will clearly all benefit. Pharma will get more drugs approved and be able to charge more for them because they will have higher efficacy. The insurance industry will happily pay because they will save through improved patient care and less (costly) trial-and-error ineffective treatment regimens, and patients will only get a drug if it is known to be effective for them and their particular form of disease resulting in more targeted, tailored and effective health care. Virtually all drug candidates include accompanying biomarker programs that may lead to a co-developed diagnostic test and this may just be the next big thing for the pharmaceutical industry and the life science industries that serve it. The only thing left to sort out is what the regulators will do. Things are starting to get very interesting.

As always, your comments are welcome.