The year 2020 was challenging for almost all businesses with unprecedented turbulences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. My thoughts are with those who suffered during the pandemic from the tragedy the virus caused. However, the pandemic also showed great courage of the people and impressive achievements in science. I am proud that we are part of several projects in response to the pandemic where the collaboration of the Yokohama City University School of Medicine with Tosoh Corporation and Kanto Chemical supported by the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) is one highlight on how our wheat-based cell-free protein expression system is used to provide serological tests for following up on COVID-19 infections.
Due to shutdowns of research facilities in Japan and other countries, the research reagent market saw a big slump in early 2020 except for some needs in response to the pandemic. This situation improved in the latter half of 2020 with increasing reagent sales toward the end of the year. Although the first vaccines against the SARS-CoV 2 virus are being applied, we envision that also in 2021 COVID-19 related projects will be a key driver for sales into the research and applied markets. Supporting COVID-19 assay development and production of test kits had led to strong sales into the diagnostic industry, and we expect a continued need for serological testing in 2021.
With vaccines providing better protection to the people, we hope that harsh disruptions of public life will no longer be necessary to the scale seen in 2020. This should also help to run academic and industrial research and development activities more smoothly on a prepandemic level.
In the new year, we want to encage more in viral research including studies related to SARS-CoV 2. Having a rapid, easy to use protein expression system is a great tool for doing more functional analysis on mutated viral proteins as they will certainly continue to appear with the wider spread of the virus. We would also like to make a greater effort to support the development of new interventions to treat the disease. First efforts to repositioning drugs for COVID-19 treatment failed to give good results. Thus, we see a pressing long-term need for the development of better anti-viral drugs for SARS-CoV 2 and possibly other viruses. Those targets may be proteins from the virus, but also interacting human proteins will gain more attention looking for drug targets and to possibly explain the complex disease phenotype. Protein-protein interactions and more investigations on severity markers could make use of our Human Protein Bead Array Platform. Using our cell-free expression system, we have access to a set of about 20,000 human full-length proteins presented on the array; up to 23,000 human proteins in our library may be individually used in targeted studies. Moreover, our cell-free expression system is successfully used for studying viral proteins including several proteins from corona viruses. Therefore, we think this is a valuable resource to work on interactions between viral and human proteins.
I am optimistic that 2021 will benefit from the starting vaccine campaigns to gain more control on the pandemic. That said, I still believe in the need to make more efforts to study SARS-CoV 2 and to work on better anti-viral treatments and diagnostic tests targeting mutated viral proteins. This will be of critical importance, as this virus and related corona viruses will continue to threaten human health. CellFree Science will also stay in the future fully committed to support such needs in global health and to work for the benefits of the people.