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Researchers Optimistic about Genomics Funding, Rate Illumina and Life Tech Best in Class

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Despite a gray forecast for National Institutes of Health funding, researchers have a relatively positive outlook on genomics funding, a recent survey conducted jointly by GenomeWeb and investment firm Mizuho Securities has found.

Respondents to the survey also ranked Illumina, Life Technologies, and Roche as the companies with the best products in genomics research.

For FY 2011, NIH funding will be down about 1 percent year over year and FY 2012 funding is expected to be flat and possibly down. But in the survey, at least 31 percent of 71 respondents said they expect an increase in funding to their own laboratories, while at least 27 percent said they expect their funding to drop in 2011. Overall, funding growth is expected to be flat year over year.

Expectations for FY 2012 were even rosier with funding anticipated to rise 2 percent year over year. At least 38 percent said they expect their funding to increase, while 26 percent said they plan on their funding to drop.

The survey was conducted between May 24 and June 2 by Mizuho, who polled GenomeWeb's readers in order to get a snapshot of expectations of genomics research trends during the next 12 months. A total of 109 individuals in the genomics space responded to the 15-question survey with 82 percent completing each question.

About 61 percent of the respondents said they work in a government or academic setting, while 25 percent work in a commercial setting. Sixty-one percent were from the US and Canada, while more than 22 percent of the respondents were from Europe. About three-quarters of respondents manage a lab.

In a research note, Mizuho analyst Peter Lawson said that, overall, the results suggest a more optimistic outlook for genomics than the broader life science space, and genetic research "will fare among the best of the disciplines in terms of funding. Best-of-breed companies and those with a broad consumables menu should fare the best in this environment."

Not surprisingly, sequencing technology, both next-generation and single-molecule, scored the best when survey takers were asked which technology they thought would see the biggest funding spike during the next 12 months. More than 70 percent answered next-generation sequencing, while about half said single-molecule sequencing. Respondents were allowed to select more than one answer.

Companion diagnostics and informatics technologies followed with about 40 percent each. Mass spectrometry and real-time PCR brought up the rear with less than 10 percent of respondents saying that each of those technologies would receive the largest funding hike for the next year.

Respondents also continue to be titillated by sequencing technologies as a platform under development by Oxford Nanopore, as well as Life Technologies' Ion Torrent instrument, and Illumina's MiSeq and HiSeq platforms were ranked the most exciting instruments in the genomics space.

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In terms of research areas that survey respondents think will fare the best in gaining funding during the next 12 months, 49 percent said that cancer research would see the largest funding hike, while 46 percent said that biomarker validation and development would benefit the most from any funding increase, and 39 percent said translational research would see the largest increase.

The survey results also suggest that two San Diego area companies — Illumina and Life Technologies — may benefit the most from any increase to NIH funding. More than 70 percent of respondents identified Illumina as the firm that would reap the most rewards from a funding uptick followed by Life Technologies, with almost 60 percent of respondents placing that firm as likely to benefit the most.

"We believe the rapid pace of technological innovation in genetics along with its potential to transform medicine will provide a disproportionate amount of funding vs. other research fields, benefitting genetic leaders Life Technologies and Illumina," Lawson wrote.

About 40 percent of respondents said Agilent Technologies would be among the firms that benefit the most, a result that surprised Lawson, even though it has "significantly expanded into the life science market, and has strong product lines for comparative genome hybridization arrays, copy number variation, and target enrichment for next-generation sequencing," he said.

In terms of quality of products, Illumina was at the top of the heap, with 85 percent of respondents citing the company as best-in-class. Life Tech was second at 38 percent, followed by Roche at 34 percent, and Agilent at 30 percent.

In addition, Affymetrix "ranked surprisingly well," with 25 percent indicating the microarray firm had best-in-class products. Qiagen, at 18 percent, "ranked well with their under-the-radar genomics business, with a leading sample prep franchise and PCR franchises," Lawson said.

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Survey participants were also asked about their stimulus-funding experience and the expected impact when such funding ends. Approximately 22 percent said their funding will be down post-stimulus, while 13 percent said their funding will increase. A vast majority, more than 60 percent, said that they did not expect the end of stimulus funding to have any effect on their lab, or that they didn't receive any stimulus funding.


GenomeWeb Daily News sister publication In Sequence has published a separate article looking at the survey results specifically focused on sequencing technologies.