Ariosa targets Brazil with prenatal Dx

California's Ariosa Diagnostics is hitting Brazil with its prenatal test that screens for conditions such as Down syndrome, a bet that the country's massive annual birth rate offers a path to major market growth.

The San Jose company said it would partner with Fleury Medicina e Saude (Fleury Group) to offer its Harmony Prenatal test, which screens for chromosomal abnormalities that can indicate Down syndrome or other genetic conditions. Neither side is disclosing the financial details, but they do note two major selling points. 

First, Brazil, an emerging market powerhouse, has an annual birth rate close to 3 million. Second, Fleury, with more than 3,000 clinical laboratories and hospitals throughout the country, will offer the test as a "preferred" non-invasive prenatal test of choice to analyze for Down Syndrome or other genetic risks. The blood diagnostic is doable as early as the 10th week of pregnancy and tests for the genetic condition Trisomy 21, which has been linked to Down syndrome.

Ariosa's expansion strategy is a smart one. The company has also pursued similar deals domestically, like its distribution deal with LabCorp. But the company is facing robust global competition. Rival Natera, for example, is aggressively trying to expand the reach of its Panorama test, which detects chromosomal abnormalities that can spot Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, Patau syndrome and Turner syndrome using cell-free DNA found in maternal blood. And the company is expanding into Switzerland, Scandinavia and other locales. Sequenom ($SQNM) has a similar, competing test (MaterniT21 Plus) and is pursuing a global expansion (and also suing Ariosa for patent infringement). Illumina ($ILMN) is a hot competitor, too, thanks to its $350 million acquisition of Verinata Health earlier this year.

Beyond testing for Down syndrome risk, Ariosa's test can also handle X and Y chromosome analysis, which can help diagnose related conditions and determine the sex of a fetus.

- here's the Ariosa release

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