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Broader Biotech Space Pulls Down Life Science Tools, MDx Stocks in March

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Weakness in the broader biotech space dragged down the shares of companies in the life sciences tools and molecular diagnostics spaces in March, as 21 of the 29 firms in the GenomeWeb Daily News Index saw their stocks decline during the month.

The Index slipped more than 3 percent month over month with GenMark Diagnostics and Pacific Biosciences seeing the biggest hits (-20 percent each), followed by Illumina and Vermillion (-13 percent each). The gainers, meanwhile, were led by Rosetta Genomics (+24 percent) and NanoString Technologies (+14 percent).

Softness in the GWDN Index reflected losses in the broader biotech tech space as the Nasdaq Biotech Index shed almost 11 percent month over month — after it had climbed around 80 percent over the previous 12 months. The Nasdaq was up nearly 3 percent, however, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up a fraction of 1 percent.

GenMark's decline in share price during March continued a downward trend for the company for 2014, and followed a nearly 3 percent slide in January and an almost 4 percent retreat in February. March was a relatively quiet month for the Carlsbad, Calif.-based firm except for a 31 percent drop in revenues for its fourth quarter reported in the middle of the month. The financial results still beat analysts' estimates on the top and bottom lines, though.

Similarly, there was no clear cause for PacBio's share price decline. After a sharp increase in January, investors have cooled on the Menlo Park, Calif.-based firm's stock.

In the meantime, Rosetta Genomics benefitted from two announcements last month, which provided a catalyst for its stock. The Rehovot, Israel-based miRNA diagnostics firm began March by announcing data that correlated the downregulation of miRNA-150 with atrial fibrillation in patients with chronic systolic heart failure, as Gene Silencing News reported at the time.

Toward the middle of March, Rosetta Genomics announced updates to its pipeline of miRNA-based tests and therapeutics and said that it will begin commercializing one new assay each year as it moves a treatment for cytomegalovirus infection toward the clinic.

The company then ended the month by announcing that revenues for 2013 more than doubled from 2012.

The month's other big gainer, NanoString, got a boost in mid-March with a study published online in the journal BMC Cancer that demonstrated the analytical validity of the company's PAM50-based Prosigna Breast Cancer Prognostic Gene Signature Assay.

On another note, investors seemed unsure how to react to Exact Sciences following last week's unanimous recommendation by a US Food and Drug Administration advisory committee to approve the company's Cologuard colorectal cancer screening test. On Friday, the day after the recommendation, Exact Sciences' shares dropped 6 percent, before rebounding 10 percent on Monday, the last trading day of March.