Natera finds Hong Kong berth for prenatal screening test

Natera is jumping into Asia with its prenatal screening test, its latest expansion push after a series of market-growing moves across the U.S. and Europe through much of 2013.

Natera will launch its signature Panorama diagnostic in Hong Kong, but is using a distribution partner as a way in. DiagCor, a Hong Kong-based molecular diagnostic and testing service provider, has agreed to distribute the product and extend its reach throughout the island province and the surrounding area.

Panorama identifies gene mutations that indicate Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, Patau syndrome, Turner syndrome and triploidy, a rare condition that can lead to miscarriages or stillbirths in which the fetus has three copies of every chromosome.

Neither side is disclosing financial details concerning the distribution deal. But the agreement caps a steady year of growth for Panorama, the San Carlos, CA, company's signature product, since it launched in March 2013. Throughout the year, Natera signed distribution agreements with companies including Quest Diagnostics ($DGX), Bio-Reference Laboratories and ARUP Laboratories. Natera also inked agreements to bring the test to more U.S. East Coast laboratories, and it won a major contract with the state of California, which added noninvasive prenatal testing to its prenatal screening system. Competitors Illumina ($ILMN), Verinata Health and Ariosa Diagnostics also sealed similar CA deals.

Outside of the U.S., Natera also hashed out agreements enabling Panorama's distribution throughout Switzerland and Scandinavia, and raised $54.6 million in venture cash to help propel the ongoing marketing expansion effort plus more research and development.

Natera touts its test as being more precise than the rest, using cell-free DNA found in maternal blood. Its sensitivity rate surpasses 99%, and it has a track record without false positives or false negatives after multiple clinical trials, the company has said.

"Natera is committed to helping parents worldwide have healthy babies, and this partnership with DiagCor enables us to expand Panorama's availability to patients in Hong Kong and the surrounding region," CEO Matthew Rabinowitz said in a statement.

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