Mass Spectrometry Innovations Enhance Metabolomics and Proteomics

The current pharma/bio market is a rapidly growing, high innovation market that has maintained exceptional growth over the past several years. Of the many technologies that have benefited from its rapid expansion, mass spectrometry has been at the forefront. The adoption of mass spectrometers has been particularly swift in proteomics and metabolomics applications. There are a number of reasons for this rise in demand that centers around a few convergent events that have culminated in the current market conditions, and portend future market growth.

The move from DDA to DIA

Mass spectrometry systems are powerful tools for identifying biomarkers and discovering potential drug targets. Current systems can identify thousands of proteins in a single run and do those same experiments in a reproducible fashion, all the while doing so in a high throughput environment. However, this combined workflow was historically not easy to do and often not possible with old analytical methods. The nature of identifying drug targets relied on a database search for fragmented peptide ions though a data-dependent acquisition approach (DDA). This resulted in the ability to identify thousands of proteins from complex biological samples in a single experiment. However, this methodology had several drawbacks, most notably in run-to-run reproducibility and difficulty in detecting ions of low abundance. For these rare ions, targeted approaches were developed, with methods such as parallel reaction monitoring (PRM) and selection reaction monitoring (SRM) proving to be highly sensitive and reproducible. The combination of these two methods was key to creating high throughput, highly sensitive and reproducible results for protein identification. This combined process, called data independent acquisition (DIA) was a keystone point for mass spectrometry proteomic analysis. The result was a sudden rush by all major mass spectrometry suppliers to develop DIA methods for their respective product lines.

Further refinements to DIA analysis through a host of informatics tools has further fueled the innovation arms race among mass spec vendors. These include SWATH DIA used by SCIEX on their ZenoTOF systems, diaPASEF for Bruker’s timsTOF devices, q Exactive on Thermo Fisher’s Orbitrap systems,  and SONAR for Waters’ Xevo GC-XS QTOF systems. Part of these improvements came on the heels of better computer hardware and analysis software that could handle the large datasets created from these experiments. Improvements in both machine learning and deep learning based methods have further added to the ability of modern software to analyze and identify protein targets from large datasets and spectral libraries.

Device Demand Now and Looking Ahead

While the technological improvements enabled the ability to better support -omics, the demand for these devices was also needed. While there has been some tail wagging the dog, the advances of other technologies for protein targeting has opened the floodgates for applied research and drug discovery. Other important drivers of demand have been the result of large government and private investment that stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic. Billions of dollars were poured into labs both directly working on and adjacent to virus and vaccine research. This large influx of capital has helped labs and biotech companies alike invest in key technologies and instruments. The arrival of mRNA as a viable vehicle for protein production and targeting in humans has opened the door for targeted treatments. Meanwhile, the CRISPR/CAS9 technologies have enabled researchers to better understand genomic and protein interactions better than ever before and have enabled easier production of reporter gene inserts into key protein genes.

From there, technological innovations in imaging of tagged proteins, both in vivo and in vitro, have helped improve the pipeline from in vitro cell experiments to organoid and in vivo experiments for these proteins. Other pipeline changes for drug testing may make way for an increase in viable therapies to come to market. Recent legislation in the United States has allowed, for the first time, an avenue for toxicity testing that does not require in vivo animal.      

Understanding the Mass Spectrometry Market

The combined results of the technological innovation in mass spectrometry devices, the software and methods behind them, associated technologies surrounding proteomics and targeted therapies, and the economic conditions surrounding the post pandemic recovery have created a perfect storm for growth in mass spectrometry and its use in -omics research.

SDi’s recently published report: “Lab Instrumentation Markets for Pharmaceuticals and Biopharmaceuticals 2022” examines the market size, growth, and segments of the mass spectrometry market and other laboratory technologies as they relate to the pharma/bio market. In addition to market data, the report provides commentary on how these technologies are being utilized for different applications, geographical regions, and specific end markets, as well as how vendors stack up against each other in this important and competitive market. To learn more about the report and view a table of contents, check it out here.