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NanoString, Accelerate, PacBio Shares Sharply up in September; Myriad, Sequenom Down

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Shares of omics tools and molecular diagnostics firms bounced back in September, lifted by the broader market, after a sluggish August.

Overall, the GenomeWeb Daily News Index rose more than 4 percent in September, compared to August as 23 of the 30 firms in the Index saw their stocks increase month over month.

Helping push up companies in the Index was a more robust stock market. In August, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq, and Nasdaq Biotech Index were all down. In contrast, the DJIA increased 2 percent last month, while the Nasdaq was up 5 percent, and the Nasdaq Biotech Index rose 8 percent.

Pacing the gainers in the GWDN Index during September was NanoString Technologies, which climbed nearly 44 percent in September. Also, Accelerate Diagnostics was up 41 percent, and Pacific Biosciences' shares increased 32 percent.

NanoString was buoyed by 510(k) clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration for its Prosigna Breast Cancer Prognostic Gene Signature Assay, as well as a deal with BD Biosciences to develop a single-cell isolation and analysis workflow. Together, the two announcements propelled the company's stock upward last month, after it dipped below its initial public offering price in August.

The reason for Accelerate's steep rise, meanwhile, was unclear. On the last day of trading in September, its stock price rose 21 percent.

PacBio continued its momentum from August, during which its share price jumped 61 percent. Its September gain resulted from news that it reached an agreement with Roche to develop diagnostic products based on PacBio's technology. The deal potentially could be worth up to $75 million for PacBio, and on the day it was announced, the company's stock soared 73 percent.

Meanwhile, the big news in the omics/MDx space in September was the decision by Agilent Technologies to split into two firms, one focused on the life sciences and diagnostics businesses, the other on its electronic measurement business.

Since the announcement, its share price has moved up 4 percent. Overall, the company's stock was up almost 10 percent. Its share price of $51.25 to end September includes a dividend of $.12 per share it paid to shareholders on Sept. 27.

The September decliners were led by Myriad Genetics, which was down 10 percent. Much of that was attributable to an error by Medicare contractors on their pricing for Myriad's BRACAnalysis test. The error resulted in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issuing molecular pathology codes indicating the reimbursement rate for the remainder of 2013 for the test would drop 48 percent.

The two Medicare contractors, Noridian Healthcare Solutions and Palmetto GBA, have acknowledged the error, though, and the mistake will be corrected, Myriad said. (See related story here)

The other notable decliner was Sequenom (-9 percent), whose stock has been depressed since the company announced its second quarter earnings results, which failed to meet analyst expectations on the top and bottom lines. At the time, the firm also said that it was having problems getting reimbursed for some tests because of changes to billing and payment codes for molecular diagnostics.

More recently, the company said it would lay off 75 employees as part of a reorganization. And last month, it announced that its board had authorized "the review of potential strategic alternatives" for its Genetic Analysis segment.