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Jefferies Healthcare Conference Day 3: Sequenom, Agilent

By Tony Fong

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Wednesday marked the third day of the Jefferies 2011 Global Healthcare Conference here. Below are highlights from firms in the life science tools space that presented earlier in the day.


Chairman and CEO Harry Hixson reviewed the timeline for the firm's Trisomy 21 test, which is still under development. The company and its collaborators have finished a large clinical study of women and infants for the SensiGene T21 test and are in the process of writing up the study for publication.

Upon its publication, Sequenom will launch the test as a laboratory-developed test, anticipated to happen at the end of this year or in the first quarter of 2012, Hixson said, reiterating a timeline previously provided by the firm.

The company also is in discussions with the US Food and Drug Administration about a proper design of a clinical study for submission of the test for pre-market approval. It hopes to have the details for the study design nailed down by the end of the year and to submit an application to the regulatory agency by the end of 2012.

Meanwhile, Sequenom is working with an outside consulting firm on reimbursement and pricing for the T21 test and will be expanding its sales force for the test. It also is working with Illumina, which makes the sequencing technology employed by Sequenom for the test, in order to determine the appropriate sequencing capacity prior to launch of the test, Hixson said.

Last month, the San Diego-based firm's CLIA lab, the Sequenom Center for Molecular Medicine, launched the RetnaGene AMD test for age-related macular degeneration. Hixson said that Sequenom has "great hopes" for the test – which is for the assessment of the risk of progression to late-stage AMD – but it will be "some years" before the company sees "significant penetration" of the market with the product.

The firm also is preparing for a launch of the test outside of the US, he said.


Chemical Analysis Group President Mike McMullen said that Agilent will be making efforts to ramp up penetration into the pharmaceutical and biotech space, a market that is projected to grow between 5 percent and 7 percent annually, but one in which Agilent has a limited presence.

That effort will be led by continuing technology development, McMullen said, in separation technologies, such as liquid chromatography, and sample preparation and detection tools, as well as informatics products. In line with that strategy, at the American Society of Mass Spectrometry annual conference held in Denver this week, Agilent launched several new mass spec platforms, he noted.

As pharma transitions to UHPLC from HPLC technology, it will open up new markets in that space, McMullen added.

In life sciences, he said that the company is looking to move up into the top ranks as an instrument provider. With the exception of the liquid chromatography space, where it and Waters are seen as the co-leaders, Agilent lags behind other firms in terms of market share

"We think there's a lot of [opportunities] for market growth," for Agilent, McMullen said.

Along with building out its technology portfolio, the company plans to leverage opportunities in emerging markets such as Asia, he added.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.