Proteins are essential for sustaining human and animal life. Proteins offer us a window into the expression and activity of genes. The entire set of proteins that a genome expresses is known as the proteome, the large-scale study of which is known as proteomics. This emerging discipline aims to characterize proteins' expression, structure, functions, interactions, and modifications within the proteome.
Numerous proteomics technologies have been developed over the years, allowing scientists to identify and quantify proteins within a cell or tissue. These technologies are being leveraged in the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals. Here, we discuss the applications of proteomics and its recent developments, along with reviewing the current global market and predicting how the field may evolve in the future.
Application Areas of Proteomics
Proteomics has many applications in medicine and pharmaceuticals. It is applied in the detection of diagnostic biomarkers and is, therefore, vital for early disease diagnosis and prognosis. It is also applied in disease monitoring, as explorations of the proteome are essential for developing our understanding of pathogenicity mechanisms and interpretation of functional protein pathways in different diseases. Additionally, applications of proteomics have emerged in drug and vaccine development.
For example, proteomics-based technologies have become widely adopted in biomarker discovery. Reliable biological biomarkers are key indicators of a biological case or situation. Such biomarkers can identify the presence of certain biological activities and processes. In healthcare, biomarkers are important as they indicate the presence of a disease and analyze the change in disease activity in response to therapeutic strategies. Therefore, proteomics is important for diagnostics and disease monitoring via its application in biomarker detection.
Various proteomics-based technologies are used for biomarker identification. Usually, this includes technology for protein extraction and separation (e.g., 2-DE, LCM, and 2D-DIGE, with 2-DE being the most common), protein identification (e.g., tissue array, and mass spectrometry and its different forms), and protein verification (e.g., ELISA, and western blot). Then, this is followed by database searching, protein-protein interactions (PPIs) analysis, and statistical analysis.
Regarding its application in vaccine development, the earliest proteomics technique leveraged for this purpose was 2D gel electrophoresis, which allowed a vast number of proteins to be separated, characterized, and compared. Initially, these 2D spots relied on Edman degradation or immunoblotting approaches for protein identification. As mass spectrometry techniques, microcapillary chromatography, and genome-assisted data analysis have matured, protein identification has become faster, more sensitive, and more reliable. Additionally, the development of advanced quantification methods (e.g., spectral-counting; stable isotope labeling by amino acids in cell culture, SILAC; Isobaric tags for relative and absolute quantitation, iTRAQ; and isotope-coded affinity tag, ICAT) has allowed for the absolute and relative quantification of proteins within complex biological samples.
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Recent Developments in Proteomics
There have been several recent developments in proteomics. This year, scientists report the development of a novel sample pre-treatment, the "water droplet-in-oil method" (WinO), based on water droplet-in-oil digestion to enable efficient protein recovery. Published in the journal Analytical Chemistry, the research shows how the novel method can overcome the limitation of current proteomics methods that result in high sample losses. The technique is believed to be important for research into anticancer drug resistance.
Another novel proteomics technology was developed in 2021. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry developed the MaxQuant software platform to enhance computational workflow for data-independent acquisition (DIA) proteomics. The new software, known as MaxDIA, allows for highly sensitive and accurate data analysis and will likely be leveraged in personalized medicine research.
Additionally, researchers have continued to progress with biomarker research, a key application of proteomics. In the journal Cancer Discovery, a team of scientists from Baylor College of Medicine and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, alongside clinicians at Washington University in St. Louis, reported that they had successfully identified biological markers in triple-negative breast cancer that are related to chemotherapy resistance.
Current Global Market of Proteomics
The global proteomics market was valued at $22.3 billion in 2021 and is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 13.5% from 2022 to 2030. The continued demand for personalized medicine and improved diagnostic tools is believed to drive this growth.
Currently, North America and Europe hold the majority of the global proteomics market (over 55%). The US, Germany, China, Switzerland, and Canada represent the top five countries driving market demand. Growth of the proteomics market, particularly in North America, is driven by the high prevalence of genetic diseases (e.g., cancer) and infectious diseases (e.g., malaria), which are key targets for proteomics research.
Key US-based market participants will help to continue to fuel market growth over the coming years in North America. At the same time, the market in Europe is expected to grow at a rate of 15% from 2021 to 2031.
The top five key market players worldwide have been identified as Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc. (US), Bio-Rad Laboratories (US), Merck KGaA (Germany), Agilent Technologies, Inc. (US), and Bruker Corporation (US). Together, these key players hold over 60% of the global market share. Other key players include GE Healthcare (US), Danaher Corporation (US), PerkinElmer, Inc. (US), CellCarta. (Canada), Luminex Corporation (US), Waters Corporation (US), and Promega Corporation (US).
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Future Directions of Proteomics
The key driver for the proteomics market is the demand for personalized medicine. This demand will likely shape the future of proteomics, with a research focus on this field likely to shape how technology and applications emerge. In particular, we may see a specific focus in proteomics research into developing personalized medicine for different types of cancer. The more detailed information obtained via proteomics will allow for enhanced prevention, diagnostic, and therapeutic approaches to cancer.
Overall, the proteomics sector will see rapid growth over the next decade, fueled mainly by the demand to better prevent and treat genetic and infectious diseases. We will likely see advances in technology together with broadening applications of proteomics within the medical and pharmaceutical sectors.
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