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Funding Worries Ease Somewhat Among Genomics Researchers, Survey Finds

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Funding remains a concern for life science and genomics researchers, while demand for next-generation sequencing continues to climb but demand for arrays remains soft, according to a recent survey conducted by Mizuho Securities in cooperation with GenomeWeb.

The 25-question survey conducted between Dec. 14, 2011 and Jan. 6, 2012 polled a subset of readers of GenomeWeb for their views about the life science tools space and trends they expect in genomics-related technologies.

In some respects, the results mirror those found in a similar survey conducted in the fall. One notable difference, however, is the outlook on funding for genomic research for 2012.

In the fall survey, respondents said they expect funding to shrink by 2 percent compared to 2011. At the time, the FY 2012 National Institute of Health budget was still up in the air, but with the budget now approved expectations have risen, though they remain modest.

In the current survey, respondents said they expect funding to be essentially flat for 2012. The outlook for 2013 turned negative as funding is anticipated to slide .6 percent, which "fits with the potential NIH budget cuts in 2013 and uncertainty from European austerity," Mizuho analyst Peter Lawson said in a report detailing the survey results.

Respondents also expressed pessimism about government funding in the longer term, saying they believe funding will remain flat to down about .6 percent over the next five years.

Despite the funding worries, overall, the expectations revealed in this most recent survey were still an improvement over the opinions expressed in the fall survey. Respondents said they expect to increase spending on reagents by 1.7 percent, for example, up from an anticipated .1 percent increase in the fall survey, and to increase infrastructure spending by .5 percent. In the earlier survey respondents said they expected infrastructure spending to be down by more than 1 percent.

Also, equipment spending is expected to be down 2 percent, but still represented a modest improvement from the fall survey when respondents said they would cut basic lab equipment spending by about 3 percent and high-end equipment by 2 percent.

The survey was based on responses from 91 individuals, 66 percent of whom completed each question. About 67 percent of respondents are from the US or Canada, 16 percent from Europe, 14 percent from the Asia-Pacific region, and 3 percent from the rest of the world.

Approximately 77 percent said they work in or manage a laboratory, and more than 78 percent said they receive government funding.

The poll also sought to find out which research areas are expected to receive increased funding over the next 12 months. Translational research scored highest among the options — boding well for Complete Genomics and Illumina, Lawson said — followed by cancer research, biomarker validation and development, and biomarker discovery.

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Among the 20 life science and genomics-related companies scored by Mizuho for the survey, Illumina scored the highest in terms of where researcher dollars would go. Respondents said they expect to purchase more products from Illumina than any other firm, followed by Life Technologies, Roche, Qiagen, and Fluidigm.

Affymetrix was last, in line with a poor prognosis for microarray technology overall.

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Arrays were the only technology that scored negatively on the survey in terms of spending. Only about 40 percent of survey respondents said they plan to use arrays, and those who said they will use the technology said they expect to increase spending 1.7 percent during the next two years.

Spending on genotyping arrays is expected to be up 2.5 percent, gene expression array spending is anticipated to increase 1.4 percent, and structural array spending is anticipated to be up 1 percent.

Also, respondents said that they expect to increase spending on exome arrays by 3.7 percent, a trend that is expected to benefit both Illumina and Affymetrix, while arrays for genome-wide association studies could see spending dip by 1.7 percent, a negative for market leader Illumina, Lawson said.

In spite of the grim outlook for arrays, he said that the technology still remains relevant. "[T]hey still command a significantly lower price point versus sequencing, and also offer complementary technology to sequencing — both upstream and downstream."

During the next 12 months, much of the research dollars will go to sequencing technologies, with single-molecule sequencing the technology expected to see the biggest increase in spending. According to Lawson, the result was "somewhat surprising" as past surveys have suggested mixed views about the technology.

The result, though, "may also signal the transition we are seeing from genome centers to stay competitive," he said, adding this could be a positive sign for Pacific Biosciences.

In addition, next-generation sequencing placed high among technologies expected to garner research dollars, placing third in the survey. Sandwiched in between single-molecule sequencing and next-gen sequencing was informatics as researchers try to make sense of the vast of amount of data being produced by sequencers.

Overall, sequencing was the technology that respondents were most bullish about using, with 85 percent saying they use or plan to use next-generation sequencing, and 88 percent saying they are likely to generate more sequencing data during the next year compared to 2011.

All that data is expected to push up the demand for informatics capabilities, and the survey found that open-source software was the platform most commonly used across the sequencing analysis workflow, "which clearly highlights the emerging opportunity for [third]-party development," Lawson said.

Asked about problems they come across during the data analysis workflow, researchers cited insufficient depth as the biggest, followed by gene coverage bias, wrong alignment parameters, excessive data filtering, and improper preprocessing.


GenomeWeb Daily News' sister publications In Sequence and BioArray News have published separate articles about the survey specific to the sequencing and array markets.

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