The US market for chiral technologies - used to make single isomers of compounds - will grow by an estimated 8.8 per cent a year to reach a value of $1.8 billion (€1.4bn) in 2008, according to soon-to-be-released market research.
Organic compounds tend to exist in two mirror image forms or optical isomers. Whether a compound is left-handed or right-handed plays a role in many aspects of modern science, but it has a major impact in the pharmaceutical industry. Today the majority of new drugs being introduced are made in one chiral form, and this has led to an increase market for tools used in their production, notes Business Communications Company, which has complied the report.
BCC 's study estimates that the U.S. market for chiral technology reached $1.2 billion in 2003, comprising over 40 per cent of the total worldwide market.
And the importance of the pharmaceutical market is underscored when one considers that it accounted for $880 million of a total market of $1.11 billion in 2002. By 2008, the sector will make up 81 per cent of the total market with sales of $1.47 million.
Manufacturing takes the lion's share
The report splits the chiral industry into two main categories: the manufacture of chiral compounds and the analysis of chiral compounds. Chiral manufacturing will continue to dominate the market as it rises from revenues of over $1 billion in 2003 to over $1.6 billion in 2008, notes BCC. The category can be further subdivided into synthesis and separation.
The synthesis market was worth $986 million in 2003 and is expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2008, reflecting an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 9.2 per cent. Just under 98 per cent of this market is accounted for by chiral intermediates, with the remainder accounted for by chiral chemical catalysts and other materials used in chiral synthesis, biocatalysts and chiral auxiliaries.
The chiral separation market is small when compared to the chiral synthesis market. The sales of reagents for the separation of chiral products was estimated at $55.3 million in 2003 and expected to reach $83.9 million by 2008, an AAGR of 9.9 per cent. This market includes technologies such as crystallisation, kinetic resolution, chiral chromatography and solvent extraction.
Meanwhile, the market for chiral analysis reagents reached $164.6 million in 2003, and is expected to grow 6.6 per cent a year to reach $226.4 million by 2008. The chiral analysis figures include the markets for chiral chromatography, chiral polarimetry and chiral NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) shift, as well as other technologies.
"The chiral technology market is changing due to regulatory changes and the demand for single isomers," comments BCC.
The key industry objective is now 'racemic switching,' a process in which a drug which is based on both optical isomers is switched to just one form, in the hope of improving its safety:efficacy ratio. A recent example of this is AstraZeneca's development of Nexium (esomeprazole), a single-isomer version of its blockbuster gastrointestinal drug Losec/Prilosec (omeprazole.
The advantages of racemic switching for the company are often that a drug franchise can be extended beyond the lifespan of its patent protection by moving patients over to the new, hopefully improved single-isomer version.