Increased demand for non-animal chemical safety evaluations and for greater efficiency in testing has led to a burgeoning new market for in vitro and in silico methods, and financial investment research companies are beginning to take notice.

In January, a report by BCC Research estimated that the combined in vitro/in silico test market – valued at $4 BILLION (USD) in 2011 and $4.9 BILLION in 2012 – will reach $9.9 BILLION in 2017.  The report also discusses the potential for continued growth in the market; quoted in one news release, report author Robert Johnson noted, “Our research indicates that the current wave of in vitro adoption globally will take at least five to seven years, and it could be decades before animal testing is replaced entirely.”

In April, Markets and Markets projected a market of $17,227 MILLION by 2018 (though this report seems not to include in silico tests). According to this analysis, “Europe was the largest contributor to the global in vitro toxicology testing market in 2013. It will also be the fastest growing region till 2018. The European market is witnessing growth as a result of strong government directives to altogether stop animal testing and replace in vivo testing by in vitro methods. The Asian countries…are also expected to register double-digit growth from 2013 to 2018 due to the low costs offered by the developing nations to conduct studies.”

In October, an analysis by Persistence Market Research reinforced these broad patterns (note that dollar figures are not provided in the summary available to the public).  The report notes that the market drivers are slightly different for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries: in pharmaceuticals, there is a growing trend “towards detecting the toxicity during initial stages of production,” while for cosmetics “support from regulatory authorities for using in-vitro and in-silico methods for studying toxicity of a substance is driving the in-vitro toxicity testing market…”  Persistence Market Research is also tracking growth in industry use of microfluidics: the market is projected to increase from $1,531.2 MILLION (USD) in 2013, to $5,246.4 MILLION in 2019, with Asia experiencing the highest growth. Microfluidic devices (such as the organs-on-chips being developed by the Wyss Institute, and 3-dimensional cell “co-cultures” such as those produced by Hepregen and HuRel) are increasingly used by pharmaceutical companies in their drug development and safety screening process, and are used in other health and manufacturing industries, as well.

For the purposes of predicting human responses to chemicals, non-animal test methods are proving to be as good as or better than the animal tests they are intended to replace. In addition, in vitro methods exponentially reduce the cost and time involved in identifying and safety- testing potential new pharmaceutical compounds.  This is no small matter; a recent study by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development reports that it costs $2.6 BILLION (USD) to bring a new drug to market. Government initiatives to profile tens of thousands of already-marketed household and industrial chemicals stand to gain from improved speed and cost effectiveness, as well, and are among the key market drivers identified by these reports – along with regulatory activities such as REACH, and increasing public concerns about the ethics of animal research.