Engineering 101

The Microfluidics Industry is Boosted by the COVID-19 Outbreak


“Wherever we look, in most applications, we’re in a period where volumes are ramping up rapidly,” said Sébastien Clerc, Technology & Market Analyst in Microfluidics, Sensing & Actuating at Yole Développement (Yole).

“This is a sign of the technology and the business models maturing. The main hurdles are behind us. The sale of consumables is still the main model in microfluidics, however companies are finding more convenient solutions for their customers,” he added.

For example, different companies are developing consumables for a common instrument so that customers only have to purchase a single instrument to run many types of test. Reagent rental options also diversify and take various forms, always to facilitate adoption. Indeed, successful commercialization of microfluidic products and devices is improving, but still not easy.

Besides point-of-care testing, the market is driven by tools for pharmaceutical and life science research. These include DNA sequencing, other genomics and proteomics tools, and much more. Veterinary testing is also enjoying very nice dynamics, with several significant new entrants. Moreover, new applications include liquid lenses, which enable miniaturized and enhanced optical actuation.

These are now reaching commercialization and show tremendous potential for industrial and consumer applications. It confirms once again that microfluidic technologies are not limited to life sciences and healthcare.

In this context, Yole has released a new report, ‘Status of the Microfluidics Industry 2020’. Yole’s analysts explain COVID-19’s impact on the microfluidics industry and detail their vision of this industry’s evolution. Including for the first time market shares of integrators on eight segments of the microfluidics market, along with market shares of microfluidic fabs, this report presents readers a comprehensive understanding of the competitive environment within this industry.

This study also points out market segmentation, data and forecasts, market and technology trends. In addition, the report offers an analysis of recent industry moves, including fundraising and M&A. This year, it also provides an understanding of the opportunities in terms of glass and silicon wafers in the microfluidics field.

What is the status of the microfluidics industry? What is the impact on the COVID-19 in short and long terms? Who are the key players? Who will be the main winners and why? Yole’s analysts have shed light on the overall microfluidics ecosystem.

For Sébastien Clerc in the ‘Status of the Microfluidics Industry 2020’ report: “Following the advent of COVID-19 in early 2020, our society has encountered an unprecedented health and economic situation. Many countries around the world have had either partial or complete lockdowns for different durations. It’s been more than six months and the situation is far from returning to normal, although life continues.”

In that context, and in order to understand the virus and control its spread, there is a continued strong demand for respiratory diagnostic tests. The world also needs research tools to study the virus’ properties and mutations and help develop treatments or vaccines. This strong demand has pushed many diagnostics players to repurpose existing systems to detect the virus or associated antibodies.

On the other hand their usual activity has been offset by lab closures and reluctance of patients to undergo their usual healthcare consultations. Microfluidic technologies have been used in various solutions. These include molecular diagnostics, immunoassays, rapid point-of-care tests and high-throughput solutions for centralized labs. There was an initial shortage of tests and it took time to develop appropriate solutions and to scale production lines.

Clerc continued: “Numerous companies of all sizes including Abbott, Cepheid and bioMérieux have therefore had the opportunity to place many instruments at new customers’ places because they were among the first to offer COVID-19 tests. They sold many of these tests, resulting in a spike in revenues for Q1 and even more for Q2 2020.

“This dynamic seems on track for Q3, Q4 and at least to early 2021 as the pandemic continues. A second wave is starting to strike some countries, and healthcare organizations are now testing many more people than several months ago. However, this is not a one-shot rise in revenue that will come back to normal soon.”

Once the pandemic is over, these instruments will remain in place and be used for other tests that these companies offer. This will take their consumables sales to a higher level than before the pandemic.

In addition, Yole’s analysts have gone further in their analysis and describe how the situation opens up significant new opportunities in areas such as travel and workplaces – with rapid passenger or visitor screening – that represent billions of potential tests every year needed to help restart the world’s economy.

Moreover, governments and society have realized the importance of such diagnostic tests. They will surely support their continued development to be ready in case of another future pandemic. The diagnostics industry may therefore make the best of this bad situation and turn it in a real springboard. The pandemic could eventually push point-of-care testing to where it belongs, a true killer application of microfluidics.

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