Chromatography: Dragged Down by GC

The chromatography market increased to nearly $8.17 billion in 2014 on 3.9% growth. This segment’s forecast excludes capillary electrophoresis, which has been moved to the life science segment (see page 2). Also, clinical HPLC has been added as a subsegment. Aftermarket and service demand grew 4.5% and 5.1%, respectively, last year, while demand for initial systems rose about 2.6%. Additionally, slower growth in Western Europe in the second half of the year along with issues in China and the nominal negative currency-exchange rate in Japan further impacted sales worldwide.

IBO expects a moderate decline in demand compared to last year, with 2.7% overall growth, buoyed by aftermarket and service revenues but hamstrung by 1.3% initial-systems growth. Aftermarket and service demand are expected to increase 3.4% and 3.6%, respectively. Solid North American and Indian pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors should be enough to boost chromatography demand for the year, and improvements in struggling regions, coupled with a growing Latin American presence, should bode positively, especially toward the latter part of the year.

The largest end-market for chromatography products is the pharmaceutical industry. Although its spending is not as aggressive as other industries, the constant demand for drug discovery and research as well as substantial and growing quality control demands are buttressing this industry’s market share. Biologic-drug sales are fueling demand from the biotech industry. The public sector is the second-largest source of demand for chromatography and is expected to show slower demand this year.

Agilent Technologies is the largest chromatography vendor overall with about 20% of the market, followed by Waters and Thermo Fisher Scientific. Agilent’s core strengths in analytical HPLC and GC technologies are the primary reason for its market share. Waters is the leader in analytical HPLC and supercritical-fluid chromatography (SFC) as well as the second-largest vendor of preparative HPLC. Its total market share is not as a strong as Agilent’s due primarily to its distribution in regions where currency is unfavorable, particularly Japan.

The analytical HPLC market, the largest individual chromatography-technology segment, is expected to increase 2.6% in 2015, primarily due to demand for UHPLC. Waters and Agilent are the primary vendors in this segment and offer competing products across the spectrum of technologies within analytical HPLC.

The fastest-growing technology segment is clinical HPLC for HbA1c testing. Demand has grown rapidly due to the increasing incidence of diabetes in the developed world.

Demand for SFC, the smallest technology segment at $65 million in 2014, is also expected to increase double digits in 2015. Adoption of this technology has not happened en masse, particularly due to the lack of a blockbuster application. Nevertheless, the extremely high sensitivity of SFC is useful for the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors, and advanced research.

The remaining chromatography segments are growing relatively slowly and are moving more toward replacement, aftermarket and service markets. GC and thin-layer chromatography (TLC) are the only segments for which demand is expected to decline this year. GC is suffering from the increased cost of helium and lackluster demand from the environmental industry due in part to delayed funding in regions with significant environmental need, such as China. TLC is increasingly becoming an obsolete technology, as mass spectrometry (MS) is expanding in capabilities and growing with LC/MS integrations.

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