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Coronavirus Fears Run Rampant Through Stock Market as Indices Tumble

NEW YORK – The GenomeWeb Index fell more than 4 percent in March as the COVID-19 pandemic and the socioeconomic fallout from the healthcare crisis continued to ravage the US economy.

Despite its own decline, the index did outperform the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Nasdaq, and the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index, which fell nearly 14 percent, 10 percent, and more than 5 percent, respectively. The GenomeWeb Index's loss in March was smaller than its 7 percent drop in February, but the three benchmark indices saw larger losses month over month.

Individual stock performance in the GenomeWeb Index was largely negative in March, as 25 of the 32 stocks saw losses and seven saw gains. Invitae and NanoString Technologies led the decliners — both companies saw their stocks drop 33 percent during the month — while Exact Sciences rounded out the list of top-three decliners with a 28 percent loss. NanoString had been on the list of top-three performers in February with a 35 percent gain in share price.

Quidel (+27 percent), GenMark Diagnostics (+18 percent), and Qiagen (+16 percent) led the gainers in March. GenMark had been on the list of top-three decliners in February, with a loss in share price of 35 percent.

Invitae's loss came amid news that it had acquired three companies: YouScript, Genelex, and Diploid. YouScript provides a clinical decision support platform to help physicians manage their patients' medications in the context of genetic test results and can be integrated into electronic medical records; Genelex is a pharmacogenetic testing firm; and Diploid is a Belgian firm with an artificial intelligence software called Moon that diagnoses genetic disorders from patients' gene sequencing and other clinical data.

And NanoString priced a $200 million private placement of convertible senior notes early in March, noting it intends to use the proceeds to prepay debts and fees owed in connection with the termination of its senior term loan facility and the intended termination of its senior credit facility, and to support the continued development and commercialization of its GeoMx Digital Spatial Profiling system and the expansion of its portfolio of nCounter-based products.

Exact Sciences, meanwhile, was forced to withdraw its previously announced first quarter and annual guidance for 2020, because of the continued uncertainties of the impact of the pandemic on its business. The company also suspended field-based, face-to-face interactions by its sales force, allowing the majority of its workforce to work from home, and reducing staff in company offices only to those who perform patient-critical work.

Quidel's gains came on the news that the US Food and Drug Administration had issued Emergency Use Authorization for the firm's Lyra SARS-CoV-2 assay for the detection of the virus that causes COVID-19. The company later received an expanded EUA from the FDA to run the assay on three additional thermocyclers, the Applied Biosystems 7500 Standard from Thermo Fisher Scientific, Roche's LightCycler 480, and Qiagen's Rotor-Gene Q.

GenMark also received an EUA from the FDA for its ePlex SARS-CoV-2 Test in March. The test qualitatively detects SARS-CoV-2 virus in nasopharyngeal swab samples and is for use on GenMark's sample-to-answer ePlex system, which is based on competitive DNA hybridization and electrochemical detection technology.

The company was also awarded a grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services of up to $749,000 to develop and pursue EUA for a diagnostic panel that incorporates a new SARS-CoV-2 viral target into the company’s existing ePlex Respiratory Pathogen panel.

And Qiagen's stock rode high in March on the news that it will be acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific for $11.5 billion. But the company also received $598,000 from HHS to develop a version of its QiaStat-Dx Respiratory Panel that can differentiate SARS-CoV-2 from 21 other common respiratory pathogens, and later received CE marking and EUA for the QiaStat-Dx Respiratory SARS-CoV-2 Panel.