Stem cell research is very dynamic with research trends, focus, and approaches evolving rapidly - but increased government restrictions on the private sector have led to a steep decline in venture capital, which threatens to slow the pace of research and development. 

New analysis from Frost&Sullivan, 'Strategic Analysis of the European Stem Cell Research Tools Market', finds that the market earned revenues of $148.4 million in 2011 and estimates this could reach $322 million in 2017. The segments covered include: bio-imaging and microscopy, cell biology tools, immunochemical, molecular biology tools, and protein biochemistry tools.

Already, a sizable stem cell research products market has emerged. One positive sign for the future has been enhanced industry-academic collaboration, something the private sector has been hesitant to do in the past. Another step forward has been changes to stem cell regulations in a few countries, allowing the use of certain cell lines. In countries such as France, stem cell regulations are being renewed for the procurement and use of stem cells.

"Such trends indicate the potential for a regulatory climate that would be far less restrictive than the current scenario," notes Frost&Sullivan Senior Research Analyst Divyaa Ravishankar. "This, together with the prospect of diverse applications within the healthcare arena, is bolstering the future of the market."

However, the lack of venture capitalists poses a grave challenge. VC funding is driven by investment return, with companies desiring to double their money every few years in order to return revenue to the fund's investors and offset the losses of companies that don't perform as planned. As an already high-risk venture now increasingly regulated by government, biotech companies are in a difficult spot and, lacking any successes beyond public relations to-date, stem cell technology does not  present an attractive investment proposition.

"While these are financial concerns, from the technological standpoint, the challenge remains to understand the basic biology behind stem cells," remarks Divyaa Ravishankar. "There is an urgent need to design and develop specific technology platforms that enhance the production, genetic stability and integration of transplanted cells."