Sequenom appoints new CEO amid diversification

Sequenom's Dirk van den Boom

Sequenom ($SQNM) is riding the waves of change, appointing a new CEO days after the company struck a deal with UnitedHealthcare ($UNH) to offer its carrier screening tests to the insurer's 43 million covered lives.

Chief Scientific and Strategy Officer Dirk van den Boom will step in as the company's interim leader after acting CEO William Welch resigns "to pursue other interests," the San Diego-based company said in a statement. Van den Boom brings an extensive resume to the table, joining Sequenom in 1998 and moving up the ranks to become its chief technology officer in 2012. In June 2014, he assumed his current role as CSO.

"We are excited for Dirk to take on the role of interim President and Chief Executive Officer, and believe that he is well positioned to lead our key strategic initiatives to develop and commercialize innovative products and services at Sequenom," Kenneth Buechler, chairman of Sequenom's board of directors, said in a statement. "We are confident that he will successfully lead our efforts to capitalize on our company's future growth opportunities and goals."

The announcement comes less than a week after Sequenom announced that UnitedHealthcare starting in October would provide the company's MaterniT21 PLUS carrier test and HeredT CF Carrier Screen test for cystic fibrosis. The agreement could offer a sizable boost to business, as the contract brings the number of covered lives under Sequenom's diagnostic services to more than 200 million, the company said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Sequenom continues to build out its offerings in light of new data showing that its noninvasive prenatal diagnostic could detect signs of cancer in pregnant women. In March, the company revealed that its test, which uses a maternal blood sample to screen for fetal abnormalities, pinpointed abnormal changes in 40 women and yielded accurate results in 26 cases. But the company is treading cautiously, van den Boom said at the time, gathering data and weighing the ethical implications of telling women that the test could identify cancer.

Earlier this month, the company inked a deal with the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center to use its liquid biopsy test to monitor cancer patients and match them with an appropriate therapy. And the partnership is just the first of many, Sequenom said at the time, as the company shoots to bring its test to market by 2016.

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