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Omics Life Science Tools/MDx Stocks Inch up 1 Percent in March

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Shares of companies in the omics life science tools and molecular diagnostics space saw a choppy March as the GenomeWeb Index inched up 1 percent month over month. 

Overall, the number of gainers in the index totaled 18, led by Sequenom, whose shares increased 13 percent in March compared to February, while 13 companies saw their share values slide in the month. Pacific Biosciences, down 7 percent month over month, had the biggest decline. 

The index managed to perform better than the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which fell 2 percent month over month, and the Nasdaq Composite, which shrank 1 percent, but was outpaced by the Nasdaq Biotech Index, which was up 2 percent. 

Sequenom started the month by announcing that its fourth quarter revenues grew 13 percent year over year, while its full-year 2014 revenues were up 27 percent, though both figures fell short of the consensus Wall Street estimate. Also during March, the company launched the HerediT Universal carrier screening test, expanding Sequenom's reach into the universal carrier screening market. The test is offered in collaboration with clinical genetic testing firm Recombine. 

After Sequenom, the index's biggest gainers were Quest Diagnostics, whose stock improved almost 10 percent month over month, and PerkinElmer, whose shares were up 9 percent. 

On Tuesday, Quest and Quintiles announced a joint venture to combine their clinical trials lab operations, creating the second-largest central laboratory services firm in the world, and early in the month, Canaccord Genuity upgraded Quest's shares to a Buy rating on expectations that primary care physician visits and laboratory testing will increase this year over 2014 levels.

During the month Quest also launched a $1.2 billion senior notes offering and reached a new commercialization and services agreement with Vermillion covering Vermillion's OVA1 ovarian cancer test. The two firms also settled a dispute over a prior licensing deal for the test.

Meanwhile, PerkinElmer's shares started to steadily climb after UBS initiated coverage of the firm with a Buy rating. And on Tuesday, Applied BioCode said it expanded a deal with the company for the use of Applied BioCode's Barcoded Magnetic Bead technology.

Among the decliners, PacBio's March sell-off followed a 22 percent month-over-month drop in February. The company saw particularly heavy trading of its shares in the last few days of March. On Monday, its stock closed up 11 percent with the one-day volume eight times higher than the three-month average, though most of the gains were returned by the end of Tuesday. There were no obvious drivers for the trading activity on either day. 

The index's second largest decliner last month was Illumina, whose shares were down about 5 percent compared to February. 

Among the announcements from the company in March was a deal with Merck Serono, the biopharmaceuticals business of Merck KGaA, to develop a universal oncology diagnostic test that uses next-generation sequencing. Mid-month, Illumina said that it and its wholly owned subsidiary Verinata Health are suing Premaitha Health for alleged infringement of patents covering non-invasive prenatal testing. And last week, Health Canada granted a medical device license for the MiSeqDx platform and the MiSeqDx Cystic Fibrosis 139-Variant Assay and MiSeqDx Cystic Fibrosis Clinical Sequencing Assay.