NEW YORK – The GenomeWeb Index rose more than 3 percent in December, and saw November's top gainer and top decliner switch places.
The index outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index — which gained nearly 2 percent and nearly 1 percent, respectively — but slightly underperformed the Nasdaq, which gained nearly 4 percent. Individual stock performance in the GenomeWeb Index was mostly positive as 22 of the 31 stocks saw gains and eight saw losses. One stock, Pacific Biosciences, was flat month over month.
Fluidigm took the top spot for gainers in December with a 38 percent increase in share price. Castle Biosciences (+28 percent) and Exact Sciences (+14 percent) rounded out the top three performers. Fluidigm had been November's biggest decliner with a 49 percent loss in share price.
The biggest loser in December was Qiagen, which saw its shares decline 21 percent. Invitae (-19 percent) and GenMark Diagnostics (-14 percent) were also in the bottom three. Qiagen had been November's highest gainer with a 44 percent increase in share price. Invitae had also placed on November's list of top three gainers with a 24 percent increase in share price.
There were no obvious causes for the rise in Fluidigm's share value over the course of the month. The company released more than 100 pathologist-verified Maxpar antibodies for use with imaging mass cytometry on its Hyperion Imaging System on Dec. 10, and announced in mid-December that the University of Michigan Protein Assembly Lab had chosen the Hyperion Imaging System for its experiments in multiparameter imaging and immune profiling of tissue.
In November, Fluidigm had reported disappointing earnings news, which negatively affected the stock.
Castle Biosciences' shares continued the steady climb they began in mid-November when the company reported that its third quarter revenues skyrocketed 300 percent year over year due to growth in its DecisionDx- Melanoma test report volume. Castle delivered 4,482 total DecisionDx-Melanoma and DecisionDx-UM proprietary test reports, about 30 percent more than the 3,447 tests delivered in Q3 2018.
The company's shares also received a boost late in December when it announced that a study published in the December 2019 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology showed that its DecisionDx-Melanoma gene expression profile test achieved a higher level of evidence than determined by major organizations that publish guidelines on melanoma management.
Exact Sciences' stock also climbed steadily over the course of the month after the company released data in late November showing that a panel of biomarkers that it has developed in collaboration with researchers from the Mayo Clinic is nearly three times as sensitive as alpha-fetoprotein testing for the detection of early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma.
Exact's shares also benefited from a research note issued in mid-December by Cowen analyst Doug Schenkel who named the company his top pick among large-capitalization growth stocks, and said the stock is undervalued by 50 percent.
Qiagen, meanwhile, saw its shares tank in December after it decided to reject all acquisition offers. The company saw its stock surge in November after rumors swirled that Thermo Fisher Scientific was planning to acquire it. 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.
But after the early close of the stock market on Christmas Eve, Qiagen announced that it had completed a strategic review, and had decided to remain a standalone business. The company's shares fell 21 percent in reaction to the news.
There was no obvious cause for Invitae's slide in share price. Genmark, however, saw its stock decline after JP Morgan downgraded it to Neutral from Overweight and lowered its price target to $7 from $11.
JP Morgan analyst Tycho Peterson wrote in a research note that a recent survey of lab managers by the investment bank "points to a deteriorating reimbursement outlook for syndromic panel testing," including respiratory and gastrointestinal panels, "within an increasingly competitive molecular diagnostics market."
Pressure associated with competition and reimbursement may erode GenMark's market share or product pricing, or both, and timelines for the introduction of a gastrointestinal panel "remain largely uncertain," Peterson added.