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Article

Multi-Mode Microplate Reader Trends

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Article

Multi-Mode Microplate Reader Trends

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Introduction

Microplate readers able to read multiple detection modes (i.e. multi-mode) have been around for about 2 decades now and are a very common sight in today’s pharma, biotech and academic research laboratories. The first multi-mode (MM) microplate readers offered up to 5 detection modes (typically absorbance, fluorescence, time-resolved fluorescence, time-resolved FRET and glow luminescence). Today anything up to 13 different read modes can be specified on the latest generation of MM plate readers. The evolution of MM plate readers has been one of adding new modes together with enhancing the specifications of the hardware (e.g. sensitivity, read time, microplate density) and increasing the flexibility of the software. In recent years, this evolution has the taken the form of adding injectors, filters plus monochromators, Alphascreen, label free, and now gas control modules and microscopic well imaging. In a market where there was little to differentiate individual MM plate readers, brand loyalty, price and service have all featured highly in purchasing decisions. More recently, the availability of specific read modes or unique features have contributed to the choice of a specific MM plate reader, particularly where those features may be absent from competitive products. In this article we explore end-user opinion of some the new features available on MM plate readers and their potential influence on purchasing decision for a new MM plate reader.

In October 2015 HTStec undertook a market survey on multi-mode (MM) microplate readers focused on research labs in pharma, biotech and academia. The study was initiated by HTStec as part of its ongoing tracking of this life science technology and marketplaces, and to update and extend HTStec’s previous MM microplate reader report published in September 2013. The main objectives of this global benchmarking study were to comprehensively document current end user experiences, preferences and likely future requirements for MM plate readers. A focus of this report update was on what influences future purchasing decisions and the use of new/emerging read modes/application areas. This article contains ‘selected findings’ from the HTStec market report, Multi-Mode Microplate Reader Trends 2015. It is intended to provide the reader with a brief insight into recent market trends. It covers only 13 out of the 34 original questions detailed in the full report. The full published report should be consulted to view the entire dataset, details of the breakdown of the responses for each question, its segmentation and the estimates for the future. Please click here for more information. 

Please note this article is focused exclusively on MM plate readers. It does NOT include or discuss single mode plate readers (e.g. absorbance only readers or micro-volume readers), or plate imagers (e.g. PerkinElmer ViewLux, Molecular Devices FLIPR or Hamamatsu FDSS).
 

Vendor Most Strongly Associated With MM Plate Readers

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Figure 1. Vendors Respondents Most Strongly Associate With MM Plate Readers

The vendor survey respondents most strongly associate with MM plate readers is presented in Figure 1. This showed that PerkinElmer was the vendor most associated with MM plate readers (18% associated). This was closely followed by BioTek (16% associated) and Molecular Devices (14% associated). The vendors least associated with MM plate readers were Beckman, Berthold, Hidex and Promega/Turner. 


The Greatest Challenge Faced Today With MM Plate Readers

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Figure 2. Greatest Challenge Faced Today With Respondent's MM Plate Reader

Some of the main challenges survey respondents face today with their current MM plate reader are given in Figure 2. This showed that limited range of detection modes was ranked the greatest challenge faced today with their MM plate readers. This was followed by throughput, sensitivity and then lack of robustness and reliability. Ranked least challenging was poor support, after sales and warranty. Overall the rankings were spread over a small range suggesting all factors ranked were moderately challenging.  



Main Application Area Where Respondents MM Plate Reader Is Most Used

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Figure 3. Application Area Where Respondent's MM Plate Reader Is Most Used

The application area where survey respondents MM plate reader was most used are reported in Figure 3. This showed that basic research (32% using) was the main application area. This was closely followed by cell biology/cell-based assays (21% using); drug discovery-small molecules (14% using), and then immunoassays and enzymology (both 9% using). All other applications had less than 3% of respondents use. 

Influence Of Brand On MM Plate Reader Purchasing

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Figure 4. Influence Of Brand On Purchasing Selection of A MM Plate Reader
The influence of brand on the future purchasing selection of a MM plate reader is given in Figure 4. This showed that most (47%) survey respondents reported brand had a moderate influence on a purchasing selection. A further 29% said it had a major influence, and 8% extremely high influence. That left only 17% who reported brand had a minor or no influence on purchasing selection. 


Factors Influencing Brand Switching

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Figure 5. What Most Influences A  Decision To Change Preferred  MM Reader Brand

What influences respondents to switch MM plate brand is presented in Figure 5. This showed that access to a new functionality or readout mode was ranked what most influenced their decision to purchase a reader away from their preferred brand. This was followed by greater sensitivity, lower price and then enhancements in operating software/data analysis package. Ranked as least influential was part of a bigger purchasing deal /consolidation with new vendor. 


Influence Of Price On MM Plate Reader Purchasing

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Figure 6. Influence Of Price On Previous Purchasing Selection of A MM Plate Reader

The influence of price on the future purchasing selection of a MM plate reader is given in Figure 6. This showed that most (47%) survey respondents reported price had a major influence on a purchasing selection. A further 34% said it had a moderate influence, and 8% extremely high influence. That left only 10% who reported price had a minor or no influence on purchasing selection. 


Use Of Different MM Plate Reader Detection Modalities

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Figure 7. Current (2015) Usage of Different MM Plate Reader Detection Modal

Survey respondent’s relative use of different MM plate reader detection modalities is reported in Figure 7. This showed that current  use of MM plate reader detection modalities was greatest for absorbance (34% of use). This was followed by fluorescence intensity (FI) - top down (16% use); glow luminescence (11% use); fluorescence intensity (FI) - bottom up (9% use); and then fluorescence microscopic imaging (6% use). Least use was made of fluorescence intensity (FI) - with injection, label-free and phase contrast microscopic imaging (all with less than 2% use). This use of different detection modalities reflects the average of all survey respondents. By drilling down into the market segments, the full market report highlights some different trends. 


Opinion On The Addition Of Cell Imaging Capability To A MM Plate Reader

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Figure 8. Respondent's Opinion On The Addition Of Cell Imaging To MM Plate Readers

Adding a cell imaging read mode to a MM plate reader is one area where vendors have sought to enhance their reader’s capability. Figure 8 showed most (34%) survey respondents consider cell imaging as a nice addition to a MM plate reader's capabilities. The remaining opinion was evenly split (22% each) between: it is just another marketing tool/tactic, in reality it is of little usefulness compared to a higher resolution imaging cytometer or a dedicated HCS imager; it brings real tangible user benefits to a MM plate reader; and it adds value, but is challenging to apply. 


Influence Of Cell Imaging On MM Plate Reader Purchasing

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Figure 9. Influence Of Cell Imaging Capability On The Purchasing Of MM Plate Readers

The influence of cell imaging on the future purchasing selection of a MM plate reader is given in Figure 9. This showed that most (32%) survey respondents reported the availability of cell imaging would have a major influence on the future purchasing consideration of those brands (currently PerkinElmer, BioTek and Molecular Devices) offering the capability. A further 26% said it had a moderate influence, and 6% extremely high influence. That left 36% who reported it had a minor or no influence on future purchasing consideration. 


Opinion On The Addition Of A Gas Control Capability To A MM Plate Reader

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Figure 10. Opinion On The Addition Of Gas Control To A MM Plate Reader
Adding gas control to a MM plate reader is one area where vendors have sought to enhance their reader’s capability, since it enables performing live cell kinetic assays. Figure 10 showed most (45%) of survey respondents consider gas control to be a nice addition to a MM plate reader's capabilities. A further 32% thought it brings real user benefits. With the remaining 23% agreeing that it is just another marketing tool/tactic, being of little usefulness compared to using an off-line incubator. 


Influence Of Gas Control On MM Plate Reader Purchasing

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Figure 11. Influence Of Gas Control Modules On The Purchasing Of MM Plate Readers

The influence of gas control on the future purchasing selection of a MM plate reader is given in Figure 11. This showed that most (37%) survey respondents reported the addition of gas control to a MM plate reader had only a moderate influence on the future purchasing consideration of these readers or brands. A further 15% said it had a major influence, and 5% extremely high influence. That left only 43% who reported it had a minor or no influence on future purchasing consideration. 


Vendor Share Of MM Plate Reader Market

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Figure 12. Estimated Future Vendor Share Of MM Plate Reader Market  - Based On Purchasing Preferences Over Next Few Years (2016-2018) 

The approximate vendor share of the MM plate reader market over the coming years (2016-2018) is presented in Figure 12. The showed that BioTek was the most popular reader brand (with 29% purchasing selections). This was followed by PerkinElmer (18%); Molecular Devices (17%); Tecan (12%); BMG Labtech (7%); Berthold (6%); ThermoScientific (5%); and all others (6%). 

Please note this should NOT be regarded as a true market share projection. It is based on respondents selecting those MM plate reader products they currently find most appealing and would likely be their next new MM plate reader purchase, not on the actual $ spent with each reader.


Most Important Drivers When Purchasing A New MM Plate Reader

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Figure 13. Most Important Drivers In Reaching A Purchasing Decision For A New MM Plate Reader

Respondents were asked to select their 3 most important drivers that would influence the purchasing of their next new MM plate reader. The results (based on the sum of respondent’s three chosen drivers) are presented in Figure 13. Robustness and reliability were the most important driver in reaching a purchasing decision for a new MM plate reader. This was closely followed by sensitivity and only then by price. The least number of driver selections was given to software for regulated environment and assay consultancy.


Summary Of Findings

The selected findings reported above have shown that PerkinElmer was the vendor most associated with MM plate readers. Limited range of detection modes was ranked the greatest challenge faced today with MM plate readers. Basic research was the main application area of MM plate readers. Brand had a moderate influence on purchasing selection. A new functionality or readout mode was ranked what most influenced a decision to purchase a reader away from the preferred brand. Price had a major influence on purchasing selection. Absorbance was the most used MM plate reader detection modality. The addition of cell imaging to a MM plate reader was regarded a nice addition to a MM plate reader's capabilities. The availability of cell imaging would have a major influence on the future purchasing consideration of those brands (PerkinElmer, BioTek and Molecular Devices) offering the capability. The addition of gas control to enable live cell kinetic assays was regarded a nice addition to a MM plate reader's capabilities. The addition of gas control to a MM plate reader had only a moderate influence on the future purchasing consideration of these readers or brands. Based on respondent’s future purchasing selections BioTek is expected to be the most popular brand of MM plate reader. Robustness and reliability were the most important driver in reaching a purchasing decision for a new MM plate reader.

Conclusions

The survey findings confirm the increasing importance end-users are placing on the availability of new read out modes, particularly the addition of a CCD whole well microscopic cell imaging capability (which can include fluorescence, brightfield and phase contrast imaging). Although in reality many potential purchasers of a cell imaging option don't yet have a clear application for it, but report it is nice to have the option available. In addition, only 1 in 5 survey respondents could think of assays they currently run on MM plate reader which they would like to multiplex (correlate) with an image of a microplate well. These trends suggest that end-users maybe covering their backs by purchasing an ‘all bells and whistles’ instrument, giving them options for all possible future applications eventualities. Of the feedback survey respondents would give vendors looking to retain/attract their custom, loyalty and interest in the future, many comments focused on the need to improve system reliability and robustness; to deliver better after sales service and technical support; and urged vendors to be more flexible and look into the future for new applications. 

In conclusion, MM plate readers have evolved to meet the changing needs of pharma, biotech and academic research laboratories. Their ubiquitous presence on laboratory benches is testament to their utility and through new innovation in capabilities MM plate readers look set to remain the assay workhorse for years to come.   

John Comley is the Managing Director of HTStec Ltd. You can find their full range of market reports at selectbiosciences.com/marketReports

HTStec Limited has exercised due care in compiling and preparing these Selected Findings from its Report, which is based on information submitted by individuals in respondent companies. HTStec Limited has NOT verified the accuracy of this information, nor has it is established respondent’s authority to disclose information to HTStec Limited. HTStec Limited expressly disclaims any and all warranties concerning these Selected Findings including any warranties of merchantability and/or fitness for any particular purpose, and warranties of performance, and any warranty that might otherwise arise from course of dealing or usage of trade. No warranty is either expressed or implied with respect to the use of these Selected Findings. Under no circumstances shall HTStec Limited be liable for incidental, special, indirect, direct or consequential damages or loss of profits, interruption of business, or related expenses that may arise from use of these Selected Findings, including but not limited to those resulting from inaccuracy of the data therein.

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