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GenomeWeb Index Gains 34 Percent in 2019 as Wider Markets Surge

NEW YORK – The GenomeWeb Index gained 34 percent in 2019, mirroring trends in the wider markets, which seemed to leave the 2018 woes of trade wars, general economic uncertainty, and government shutdowns far behind.

Although it didn't quite reach the 39 percent surge it saw in 2017, the GenomeWeb Index rose far above the 13 percent hike it saw in 2018. The index, which tracks the stock performance of 31 companies in the molecular diagnostics and omics tools space, outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index, which rose 22 percent and 24 percent year over year, respectively. It slightly underperformed the Nasdaq, however, which rose 35 percent.

Overall, the index's performance was largely positive in 2019, as 22 companies saw their shares rise and only nine firms suffered year-over-year losses. Four of the gainers saw their stocks rise by triple-digit percentages.

Natera took the top spot in 2019 with a 141 percent increase in share price, while NeoGenomics Laboratories (+132 percent) and Veracyte (+122 percent) rounded out the top three performers.

The biggest loser in 2019 was Fluidigm, which saw its shares decline 60 percent. Meridian Bioscience (-44 percent) and Pacific Biosciences (-31 percent) rounded out the list of top three decliners. It's been a rollercoaster for PacBio investors over the past few years as the firm had taken the second spot in the top-performers list in 2018 with a 180 percent increase in share price, following a showing in the bottom-three list in 2017 with a 31 percent decline.

Natera's shares benefited from a variety of deals the company signed over the course of the year, as well as positive quarterly earnings. In March, for example, Natera and BGI Genomics signed a $50 million partnership to commercialize Natera's circulating tumor DNA Signatera minimal residual disease (MRD) test in China and to develop reproductive health tests in select markets, all using BGI's sequencing technology and instruments.

The firm also signed a deal in September with Foundation Medicine to jointly develop and commercialize personalized circulating tumor DNA monitoring assays for biopharmaceutical and clinical customers who order the FoundationOne CDx test. Natera said the deal would allow it to piggyback on the Roche subsidiary's dominant market share in tumor genomic profiling to establish its Signatera test for use in advanced cancer patients.

The company's earnings grew 20 percent in the fiscal fourth quarter, 7 percent in Q1, 18 percent in Q2, and 19 percent in Q3.

Natera also received a final local coverage determination from Medicare contractor Palmetto GBA for its Prospera organ transplant rejection test for kidney transplant patients, and was able to show that the performance of its Panorama noninvasive prenatal screening test has stayed consistently high over several years, even as testing has shifted to a younger age group with lower risk for fetal aneuploidies.

Fluidigm's decline in stock value in 2019, meanwhile, could be blamed almost entirely on the firm's earnings reports in the second half of the year. Its shares climbed steadily through its fiscal Q4 2018 and Q1 2019 earnings reports, as it announced 17 percent growth in revenues in Q4 and 19 percent growth in Q1 revenues, thanks to strength in its mass cytometry business.

However, the stock fell about 34 percent after the firm's Q2 earnings report and continued on a steady decline through the rest of the year. Fluidigm reported in August that its second quarter revenues increased 7 percent year over year on continued strength in its mass cytometry product portfolio, but it missed top-line estimates and provided soft third quarter guidance on continued weakness in its microfluidics product sales.

The slide continued in Q3 when the firm said revenues fell 9 percent primarily on mass cytometry sales weakness.