Sequenom's prenatal Down syndrome Dx supercharges 2012 revenue

Sequenom's ($SQNM) new prenatal test for Down syndrome helped supercharge the company to record revenue in 2012. But losses also soared as Sequenom dealt with some patent-related legal costs and ramped up its infrastructure to support the rapid growth.

The California company booked just under $34 million in revenue for its 2012 fourth quarter and nearly $90 million for the full year, up respectively from $15.5 million and $55.9 million in the 2011 fourth quarter and full year. Those results are nothing to sneeze at, driven largely by the company's launch of its MaterniT21 Plus blood test to identify chromosomal abnormalities such as trisomy 21--a key indicator of Down syndrome.

For the year, Sequenom's diagnostic services segment surpassed $46.4 million, up from $8.3 million in all of 2011. Executives also aggressively signed distribution deals for the test in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and they are gearing up for a launch in Japan sometime this month. (But even as the test has become popular, opponents fear that it will lead to quick abortions and Down syndrome-related discrimination.)

Still, while revenue shot higher, so did the red ink. Sequenom said it lost more than $32.7 million during the 2012 fourth quarter, up from almost $22.2 million in net losses during the 2011 fourth quarter. For the year, Sequenom lost $117 million, versus a $74 million net loss in 2011.

Sequenom said its expenses increased, in part, due to patent litigation expenses but also higher infrastructure costs, including the construction of its North Carolina laboratory facility to help meet increased demand. Sequenom CFO Paul Maier put a positive spin on the overall results, noting the big revenue jump. And he also pointed out that the company's cash burn rate has gone down.

As of Dec. 31, 2012, the company reported having just under $176 million in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities on hand, up from $84.2 million a year ago.

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