French company unveils prenatal test based on licensed Sequenom tech

Sequenom ($SQNM) has struggled this fall. But the California prenatal diagnostics outfit could get a major shot in the arm from a licensing deal with a French company that is coming to fruition. What's more, execs envision similar arrangements in the future.

Laboratoire Cerba licensed technology from Sequenom that forms the basis of its own validated noninvasive prenatal test. It analyzes relative amounts of chromosomes 21, 18 and 13 in cell-free DNA from a maternal blood sample, and the test has now hit the international market. Abnormalities in those genes can indicate disorders such as Down Syndrome, Edwards Syndrome and Patau Syndrome.

According to Sequenom, Laboratoire Cerba will market the test to providers and patients in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. Samples will come back to Laboratoire Cerba's Paris facility for processing, but the company can also send them to Sequenom for testing.

Sequenom Chief Technical Officer Dirk van den Boom said in a statement that his company can replicate the testing process "with other laboratories around the world" and plans to form other "meaningful partnerships" internationally in order to do so.

News earlier this fall for Sequenom hasn't been as positive. Ex-CEO Harry Stylli is suing the company for more than $1.6 million in damages stemming from his 2009 firing over an R&D scandal. Sequenom, which is losing money, must also deal with a major defeat in a long-running patent fight. In October, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California invalidated Sequenom's patent for the detection of fetal cell-free DNA in the bloodstream of pregnant women, handing a victory to archrival Ariosa Diagnostics. Sequenom, in a regulatory filing, said it would appeal the decision with the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sequenom launched in 1994 and is based in San Diego.

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