Natera heads east for prenatal Dx market expansion

Natera revealed major plans in May to grow its share of the prenatal diagnostics market. A new distribution deal with Solstas Lab Partners will help make that happen, giving it a wider East Coast reach in the U.S. for its Panorama test.

While neither side disclosed financial terms, Solstas is a major win for the California diagnostics developer. It's one of the 10 largest full-service laboratories in the U.S. and has a market reach including the Mid-Atlantic, parts of the South and the District of Columbia. The deal builds on distribution agreements Natera inked with Quest Diagnostics ($DGX), Bio-Reference Laboratories and ARUP Laboratories. In total, they reflect a growing interest in the use of non-invasive prenatal diagnostics.

Panorama uses cell-free DNA found in maternal blood to spot chromosomal abnormalities for Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, Patau syndrome and Turner's syndrome. A basic blood draw enables the test, which can be performed as early as 9 weeks into a pregnancy without harming the fetus. Natera is pursuing trials to expand the test's use for other genetic disorders.

Back in May, Natera pulled in $54.6 million in new venture cash, which has been put into play, in part, to help scale up the company's sales and marketing efforts. Chief Technology Office Jonathan Sheena told FierceMedicalDevices at the time that seeking out partnerships with testing labs around the world was a major part of its strategy. But the funding will also help advance new R&D efforts.

Natera has to move fast because competitors including Illumina ($ILMN), Ariosa Diagnostics and Sequenom ($SQNM) are pursuing similar ways to expand. Earlier this month, Ariosa said it would partner with Fleury Medicina e Saude to offer its Harmony Prenatal test in Brazil, a major and growing healthcare market.

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