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Qiagen Stock Soars in November on Acquisition Speculation, Helping Push GenomeWeb Index Higher

NEW YORK – The GenomeWeb Index rose more than 6 percent in November, as several stock saw gains in the double digits.

The index outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq — which gained nearly 4 percent and nearly 5 percent, respectively — but underperformed the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index, which gained more than 11 percent. Individual stock performance in the GenomeWeb Index was mostly positive as 24 of the 31 stocks saw gains and seven saw losses.

Qiagen took the top spot for gainers in November with a 44 percent increase in share price. Veracyte (+25 percent) and Invitae (+24 percent) rounded out the top three performers. Invitae had been October's biggest decliner with a 16 percent loss in share price.

The biggest loser in November was Fluidigm, which saw its shares decline nearly 49 percent. Myriad Genetics (-24 percent) and CareDx (-22 percent) were also in the bottom three. Myriad had been one of October's top three gainers, with an increase in share price of 18 percent.

Qiagen began the month on rough footing as its newly promoted CEO Thierry Bernard was forced to assuage investors' fears in the wake of an announcement that Qiagen would end development of next-generation sequencing instruments, compounding existing sales weakness in China that caused the firm to deliver lower-than-expected revenues for the third quarter and reduce its fourth quarter expectations.

But the company later announced that it had signed three agreements to expand its immuno-oncology portfolio for the commercialization of future companion diagnostics, in particular those based on NGS. Its stock then surged after JP Morgan upgraded it to Overweight from Underweight, and rumors swirled that Thermo Fisher Scientific was planning to acquire the company.

On Nov. 15, Qiagen said it had received several "conditional, non-binding indications of interest" from potential merger or acquisition partners, and had begun a review of potential strategic alternatives, sending the stock up even further.

Veracyte's stock surge in November followed the publication of preliminary clinical data late in October that demonstrated the ability of the firm's new nasal swab assay to diagnose lung cancer in its earliest stages. The company found that the assay classified patients with benign nodules as low risk with about 97 percent sensitivity and 46 percent specificity.

Invitae's shares, meanwhile, rose after the company announced it planned to acquire Clear Genetics, a developer of software that supports the delivery of genetics services at scale, for approximately $50 million. The acquisition will give Invitae access to Clear Genetics' chatbot Gia, or Genetic Information Assistant, which is already being used by customers ordering genetic testing through Invitae's direct channel.

Fluidigm's shares sank after the company reported that its third quarter revenues fell 9 percent year over year primarily on mass cytometry sales weakness. The firm's $26.4 million in revenues for Q3 fell well short of analysts' consensus estimate of $28.7 million and $500,000 below the company's previously stated guidance range of $27 million to $30 million.

Myriad's shares also fell on disappointing earnings results. The company's fiscal Q1 revenues fell 8 percent and it missed analysts' estimates on the top and bottom lines, mainly due to changes in CPT codes for hereditary cancer testing. Based on the Q1 performance, Myriad lowered its fiscal year 2020 revenue expectations.

Editorial note: Genomic Health was removed from the GenomeWeb Index after its $2.8 billion acquisition by Exact Sciences was completed on Nov. 7. The stock's final recorded share price was $63.44.