Nanotechnology in Life Science Applications

Published - Oct 2005| Analyst - Andrew McWilliams| Code - NAN038A
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Report Highlights

  • The global market for nanotechnology applications in the life sciences is expected to exceed $910 million in 2005 and $3.4 billion by 2010, rising at an AAGR (average annual growth rate) of 30.3%.
  • Nanodevice applications (chiefly nanosensors used in drug screening) were the largest technology segment in 2004, with more than 50% of the market. Nanoparticle applications accounted for 21.4%, nanostructured materials 18.4% and nanocomposites 5.1%.
  • By 2010, nanoparticle applications will have surpassed nanodevices as the largest technology segment, with 39.6% of the market vs. 23.1%.
  • Medical applications are expected to grow to 60.3% of the market by 2010. Life sciences research and environmental applications are expected to lose share while agrotechnology/food science increases its share from 5.1% to 13.4%.


Life science applications could provide the first major success stories for nanotechnology, and in fact, there have been some early successes, such as nanoparticulate synthetic bone substitute and antimicrobial dressings, and nanocomposite packaging materials that enhance food products’ shelf life. However, while many other nanotechnologies with life sciences applications are under development to date, relatively few have made the transition from the laboratory to the market place and this lack of a commercial track record makes it a challenge to assess the true commercial potential of nanotechnologies in the life sciences. But the potential is captivating the many practitioners of the technology and the .

This timely BCC report provides an overview of emerging nanotechnology applications in the life sciences, with a focus on those applications most likely to achieve significant commercial sales globally in the near to mid-term (2005-2010). The study generally avoids futuristic speculation about nanotechnology applications that might be possible 10 years or more into the future, focusing instead on applications that are expected make it to market before 2010. It further identifies market drivers, evaluates obstacles to their successful commercialization and projects sales of each application.


The report:

  • Addresses the global market for emerging nanotechnology applications in the life sciences, defined as all sciences that deal with living organisms, including
        - basic research
        - health care
        - food sciences
        - environmental monitoring and remediation
        - forensics
  • Provides definitions of, and milestones in the development of nanotechnology applications for the life sciences
  • Covers emerging and developmental applications with greatest commercial potential through 2010 with market forecasts
  • Discusses factors that will influence longerterm development
  • Contains vendor profiles.


Projecting the market for emerging technologies such as most nanotechnology applications in the life sciences for which commercial potential has not yet been proven is a challenging task, which may help to explain why most analysts so far have focused on supply-side technology assessments. BCC used a multi-phase approach to identify the nanotechnology applications with the greatest commercial potential and to quantify the market for these applications, as described below.

In the first phase of the analysis, we identified a "long list" of potential nanotechnology applications (including applications that are still under development) and mapped them against the various life sciences, biomedical research, pharmaceuticals, and biocomputing).

In the second phase, we eliminated those nanotechnology applications that appear to have little likelihood of making it into commercial production in the next five years, through a literature review and statements by industry sources. The result of phase two was a "short list" of applications and life sciences with the greatest near to mid-term commercial potential.

The third phase focused on quantifying the potential market for each short-listed nanotechnology application and identifying the main prerequisites for commercial success. Various methodologies and data sources were used to develop the projections, including trend line projections, input-output analysis, and estimates of future demand from industry sources.

All projections are expressed in 2004 dollars.


Andrew McWilliams, the author of this report, is a partner in the Boston-based international technology and marketing consulting firm, 43rd Parallel LLC. He is also the author of numerous other Communications Co. studies, including several studies related to nanotechnology and the life sciences, such as: GB-290 Nanotechnology: A Realistic Market Evaluation; GB-281 Nanocatalysts; GB-310 Nanosensors; B-127R Microelectronic Medical Implants: Products, Technologies, and Applications; B-186 Patient Monitoring Devices; and C-140N Trends in Noninvasive and Minimally Invasive Medical Device Market.

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