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Cepheid Stock Soars on News of New York Anthrax Case

NEW YORK, Oct. 12 – Shares in Cepheid skyrocketed nearly 50 percent during mid-day trading on Friday after reports surfaced that an employee of NBC in New York was diagnosed with anthrax.

As of 2:00 p.m. EST, shares in the company, which makes and sells technology that performs genetic testing, were trading up more than 48 percent at $8.10 on the Nasdaq but eased a bit one hour later.

This most recent case of the disease, the fourth since the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, was confirmed by New York health officials to be the cutaneous form of the disease rather than the more deadly inhaled variety.

It is believed that the NBC employee, a woman who the company has not named, was infected after opening a letter containing a white powder that health authorities later confirmed tested negative for anthrax.

She is being treated with antibiotics and is expected to recover completely, according to health officials.

Health authorities in New York used Cepheid’s I-Core and microfluidic technologies to detect anthrax DNA on a biopsy sample of the woman’s skin. The technology is manufactured and marketed on a worldwide basis by the Baltimore-based Environmental Technologies Group since an agreement by the two groups signed on Aug. 13.

Barry Mawn, head of the FBI office in New York, said authorities “see no connection whatsoever” to the Sept. 11 attack, according to The Associated Press. The FBI is checking to see if there is a connection between the cases in New York and in Florida, where a man died last week after contracting the inhaled form of the bacteria. 

“Preliminarily I do not see that [a connection],” Mawn said, The AP reported.

In Washington, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the FBI has begun a criminal investigation to find the source of the anthrax in New York, according to The AP report. A separate investigation is under way in Florida, it said. 

Cepheid, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., develops and manufactures tests that can detect toxins in a variety of media. Shares in its stock have soared since the Sept. 11 attacks as news reports quickly circulated that the US may be susceptible to bioterrorism attacks with anthrax.  

Since the attacks one month ago, three people have been exposed to anthrax at the offices of a supermarket tabloid newspaper in Florida. One man died, another remains hospitalized, and a woman has returned to work. Each of the individuals contracted the inhaled version of the bacterium.

Shares eased down 39 85 percent, or $2.18, to $7.65 in late-afternoon trade.

They hit a 52-week high of $11.48 Oct. 10. Cepheid shares recently changed hands at $8.00, up $2.58, on volume of 15.2 million shares. Average daily volume is 1.4 million shares.

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