In spite of all the advances we’ve made in medicine, people still get sick. But thankfully, we’re continuously getting better with our ability to diagnose. One clear way medicine is improving is the in vitro diagnostics (IVD) market — a subset of the overall medical technology market — which focuses on molecular diagnostics for conditions like infectious diseases, chronic diseases, sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), oncology, and genetic testing. The better we get at figuring out what’s ailing people, the faster we can treat them.
How big’s the in vitro diagnostics market and how fast is it growing?
The in vitro diagnostics market was valued at almost $50 billion in 2012 and expected to reach nearly $70 billion by 2017 according to a report by Research and Markets. And according to Frost and Sullivan, there are multiple trends driving the growth of the IVD market, including:
- Move to point-of-care (POC) testing: Patients would rather get tested in a doctor’s office or when they’re in a medical clinic than have to get tested in a hospital. The move of testing to the point of care is driving growth in the market
- Need for speed: Medical diagnostics are getting pushed to deliver faster. This can be best seen in the explosion for raid and minimally—invasive diagnostic tools.
- Emerging markets demand: Some emerging markets are now able to pay for diagnostic devices where they weren’t weren’t able to just a few years back. Beyond other in vitro tests, in India alone, there are 100 million malaria tests per year.
- Aging population: Many countries are seeing a marked aging in their populations. As this occurs, new tests and diagnostic technologies are necessary to cope with the changes.
Who are the major players in the in vitro market?
- Roche Diagnostics: A subsidiary of Swiss pharmaceutical company, Roche (OTCMKTS:RHHBY), Roche Diagnostics is the industry leader, with operating profit in 2012 of $18.3 billion (up from $15.9 billion in 2010). The company has a broad portfolio of diagnostics for diseases like HPV, HIV, hepatitis, and diabetes, as well as for medical conditions like fertility and blood coagulation.
- Siemens Healthcare: Siemens Healthcare, a subsidiary of diversified conglomerate Siemens (NYSE: SI) is expecting $4.3 billion of revenue in the 1st quarter of 2014. With its laboratory diagnostics, Siemens Healthcare produces immunoassay, chemistry, haematology, molecular, urinalysis, and blood gas testing systems. In recent developments, Siemens Healthcare has unveiled new products that will enable earlier detection — and thus, better treatment — of HIV.
Recent developments and trends in vitro diagnostic market
- Hologic buys Gen-Probe: Gen-Probe, bought by Hologic (NASDAQ: HOLX) for $3.7 billion in 2012,. The firm’s molecular diagnostics are used for the diagnosis of infectious diseases, blood screening, analysing blood transfusions for immune response, and to test whether an organ transplant should be viable. The combined Gen-Probe/Hologic entity is a major competitor in the IVD market.
- The so-called “medical device tax”: Within Obamacare is a tax that levies a 2.3% excise tax on revenues of medical device suppliers. Though there is a pretty fierce political debate surrounding the medical device tax, it does impact the revenues of in vitro diagnostic manufacturers and could lead to pass-through of the tax burden to consumers (who would pay higher prices).
- Bionostics gets purchased by Techne: In February of last year, US based developer of in vitro diagnostic devices, Bionostics, was acquired for $104 million by Techne (Nasdaq: TECH), a manufacturer of biotech products. Bionostics products are used to monitor blood glucose and test blood gas.
- Roche Diagnostics snaps up CMI: Roche Diagnostics purchased CMI, a company with an innovative design for haematology testing, for $220 million, which could grow much higher if the firm hits its targets.
- Carlye buys J&J’s blood testing unit: Where there’s blood in the water, you’ll find smart investors and that’s what’s happening as global private equity firm, Carlyle Group is acquiring the blood testing unit of Johnson and Johnson (NYSE: JNJ). Said a spokesperson for the private equity investment group, “We have been focused on the diagnostics industry for many years given its attractive growth prospects, driven by the crucial role it plays in health care decision-making and influencing patient outcomes.”
Treating Malaria: Interesting application in the IVD market
A specific sub sector of the in vitro market that as an investor, I find interesting is the Malaria market. According to the World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report, overall Malarial control is expected to exceed $5 billion between 2010 and 2015.
Here are the numbers that I’ve seen:
- Malaria is the world’s most fatal infectious disease — over 1 million people still die every year from the disease.
- In 2010, 90 million rapid diagnostic tests were sold globally and that number is growing +50% year over year.
- India conducts roughly half of the world’s annual global malarial tests or 175 million tests annually (105M are manual microscopy and 70M are rapid diagnostic tests)
Like Carlyle, our online investment platform, OurCrowd, has a horse in the race. One company we’re equity crowdfunding right now is an investment in Sight Diagnostics, an Israel-based in vitro diagnostics company with a handful of super-smart PhDs. Instead of using a microscope, like much of the world does to identify malaria in a blood test, the company uses computer vision and algorithms to identify malaria faster, cheaper, and more accurately than a microscopist.
The company has developed its product very closely to some field work it’s done in India working side-by-side a number of the country’s largest pathology labs. It’s important to understand that beyond Malaria, Sight Diagnostic’s technology is a platform — while the company is focused initially on the Indian Malarial market, the team plans to roll out testing in short order for the world’s most popular blood test, the CBC, or Complete Blood Count (For example, in the US, there are 200 million CBCs conducted per year). We think that Sight Diagnostic’s technology, which combines the accuracy of some of the most complicated in vitro tests with the speed of a rapid diagnostic test, can grow to be a large, sustainable business.
As an investor, do you think the IVD market is investable? How are you positioning your portfolio?