NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Bruker has promoted its MALDI Biotyper system most prominently as a tool for microbiology research and clinical microbiology, but applied markets like pharmaceutical firms and the food and beverage industry make up a substantial, and growing, part of the platform's customer base.
On the company's Q2 2017 earnings call last month, President and CEO Frank Laukien said that the Biotyper saw strong demand from applied customers during the quarter, with "food, feed, and beverage" leading the way. And last week, Guido Mix, Bruker's vice president for microbiology business development, said that demand for the MALDI Biotyper system is expected to grow rapidly in the applied space in the upcoming years.
Some industry observers have noted that Biotyper instrument growth has slowed in the clinical space as markets like the US and Europe become saturated. As Laukien himself said on the Q2 call, while the Biotyper business has returned to growth after a sluggish start to the year, the platform is no longer "a double-digit growth product."
Mix said, though, that particularly for food testing applications, the company sees strong opportunities for expansion of the Biotyper business.
"Overall, the food testing market is growing substantially year-by-year and we see a very nice growth opportunity, like [that seen] in the beginning for the clinical market segment," he said.
The MALDI Biotyper identifies microbes by matching the protein profiles of sample organisms generated via MALDI mass spec to profiles contained in proprietary databases. Compared to traditional biochemical methods of microbe detection, MALDI-based systems can offer significant improvements in speed, price, and accuracy.
These advantages have driven the rapid uptake of Bruker's Biotyper and BioMérieux's competing MALDI-based Vitek MS system in research and clinical microbiology labs around the world.
These advantages also translate to applied market settings where microbial identification is required, and Bruker has been pursuing these customers while building its higher-profile clinical business, Mix said.
Beginning around 2009, the company began offering the platform to pharma companies as part of QC workflows testing for the presence of contaminating microorganisms in their production process. When a microorganism is detected via culture-based routine testing of materials used and produced in drug development, MALDI-based systems allow for faster and less expensive identification than conventional methods.
The system has proven particularly useful for identification of bacteria that are difficult to identify using classical biochemical methods, Mix said.
From pharma the company has moved into a variety of applied spaces, including public health applications such as tracking food and water-borne disease outbreaks, food testing, and monitoring of food and beverage production processes. According to Mix, the system is regularly used by public health departments in the US and Europe for pathogen identification.
Within the food industry, breweries have been a major customer for the platform, he noted, citing Japan as a particularly strong geography.
Breweries have shown especially strong interest in the system "because they have daily routines where they have to perform microbial QC, and a lot of the strains and species used in the brewing process are not covered by other commercially available products," he said, adding that the ability to easily customize a library with strains specific to a given customer's needs is a selling point for the Biotyper among applied market users.
Mix said that applied customers currently make up roughly 30 percent of the company's Biotyper business with clinical customers making up the other 70 percent. He noted that mix is expected to shift in the applied markets direction so far as instrument sales are concerned, though he said that the company expected to see continued overall growth in its clinical business as it expands its libraries and adds new capabilities like antibiotic resistance testing.
BioMérieux's Vitek MS is also a player in the applied markets, competing with the Biotyper in spaces like pharma and food and water testing.