Natera expands its reach in hot prenatal Dx market

Natera has signed a deal to get its non-invasive prenatal test distributed across Switzerland and Scandinavia, another advance for the young company as it touts Panorama to be the most reliable diagnostic in the now-crowded space.

Under the deal, Geneva's Unilabs will distribute Panorama to doctors and expecting mothers through its 11-country European network. The partnership follows Natera's agreement with Echevarne last month to get the test in Spain, and Natera has signed similar distribution deals with Quest Diagnostics ($DGX), Bio-Reference Laboratories and ARUP Laboratories since launching Panorama in March.

The test detects the chromosomal abnormalities that spell Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, Patau syndrome and Turner syndrome using cell-free DNA found in maternal blood. Panorama tracks variations in single nucleotide polymorphism in the mother's blood, running the results through its algorithm and churning out cross-chromosome results with greater than 99% sensitivity for abnormalities like trisomy 21, trisomy 18 and trisomy 13.

What separates Natera from prenatal competitors like Illumina ($ILMN), Ariosa and Sequenom ($SQNM) is Panorama's clinical track record, reporting no false positives or false negatives after multiple clinical trials, the company said.

Natera believes those data will help it unseat its better-funded and longer-running rivals. Sequenom, early to cash in on the demand for prenatal tests, has its MaterniT21 Plus test on the market around the globe, processing about 44,500 results last quarter when revenue jumped 158% to $38.5 million. And Verinata Health, thanks to Illumina's $350 million check, can tap its new parent company's established network to promote the Verifi test.

Last month, Natera raised $54.6 million in venture cash to get Panorama into as many hands as possible, and the California company is earmarking some of those funds for R&D, looking into how well the test can identify triploidy, a prenatal condition that commonly leads to miscarriages or stillbirths.

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