The conferences were held at the Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh last week and according to organisers Select Biosciences saw higher attendances than ever before with 425 attendees. The content of the talks was striking and while many focussed on developing methodologies and techniques for research analysis, many were focussed on using those techniques in a diagnostic setting. "A lot of companies are looking at microarrays as a platform for molecular diagnostics," said Ken Browne, managing director of Select Biosciences. Dr Steven Bodovitz, of biotechnology and pharmaceutical strategy consulting company Bioperspectives, said the microarray market was currently estimated to be worth around $800m (€595m) and was currently seeing reasonable growth. He highlighted applications such as aCGH (array-based comparative genomic hybridization) ChIP on chip (chromatin immunoprecipitation on microarray, SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) profiling and miRNA profiling as important growth drivers. "In the '80s there was lots of excitement in using microarrays to look for drug targets, which didn't really work with any regularity, but as the technology has matured more mature applications such as diagnostics have started to emerge," said Bodovitz. Browne believes this parallels the industry's increased interest in diagnostics with Siemens, Philips and CombiMatrix making significant attempts to strengthen their presence in the sector. Microarray-based diagnostic devices may not only be able to increase the speed of disease diagnosis, but may also be able to help track patents response to drugs in clinical trials and be used as tests to help in the push to personalise medicine. The increasing interest in using microarrays in diagnostic devices (often in conjunction with microfluidic devices) may be ascribed to the increasingly consistent data generated by the arrays. "Microarrays are now more heavily regulated in terms of the bioinformatics which has led to more credible results being generated than when people were doing their own thing and publishing results that were very difficult to reproduce," continued Browne. Browne feels that running the two complimentary conferences together was a major selling point to exhibitors and attendees who often have interests in both fields. This year the conference had in excess of 40 exhibitors, a number which has been growing at about 30 per cent a year since the conference's started three years ago.
The latest Advances in Microarray Technology (AMT) conference, held in conjunction with the Lab-on-a-Chip World Congress highlighted the movement of the fields from the research lab into diagnostics.