Sequenom strikes a deal with Cypher Genomics to develop advanced noninvasive prenatal test

Sequenom's Dirk van den Boom

Sequenom ($SQNM) is teaming up with Cypher Genomics to develop a noninvasive prenatal test using the company's advanced genome interpretation screening technology, eyeing a bigger share of an increasingly competitive market.

Under the agreement, the San Diego, CA-based company will use Cypher's Mantis genome interpretation technology to create a new test that susses out clinically relevant fetal subchromosomal variants in maternal blood, screening more closely for potential genetic abnormalities in the fetus. Subchromosomal variants account for more than 50% of rare chromosomal abnormalities but are often more difficult to detect, Sequenom said in a statement. Harnessing the technology could help Sequenom expand its offerings and provide a more comprehensive testing platform for physicians.

"We have been impressed with the performance of Cypher's industry-leading Mantis technology in our research validation studies, and we look forward to advancing our collaboration with Cypher Genomics as we develop a next generation NIPT offering and expand into new areas outside of prenatal testing," Sequenom's chief scientific and strategy officer, Dirk van den Boom, said in a statement.

The partnership comes on the heels of good tidings for Sequenom, as last month the company settled its ongoing patent feud with archrival Illumina ($ILMN). As part of the agreement, Illumina's Verinata Health said it would fork over $50 million up front to Sequenom and make ongoing payments to the company through 2020. Both companies will have the right to use the pooled patents to create their own lab-developed prenatal tests and will share collected revenues on products. But Illumina will also pay Sequenom a royalty on sales of its in vitro prenatal diagnostic kits under the terms of the settlement.

A deal with Cypher also helps Sequenom keep a leg up on its competition, as companies vie for a piece of a rapidly expanding prenatal diagnostics market. The demand for noninvasive prenatal tests is set to triple over the next 6 years, reaching $3.6 billion in 2019 as more diagnostic outfits enter the playing field. Companies such as Natera, Illumina and Ariosa are hard at work on their own products, scoring key coverage decisions for tests and inking deals to expand their reach.

Natera has not wasted any time since launching its Panorama prenatal test in 2013, signing distribution deals with labs such as Quest Diagnostics ($DGX), Bio-Reference Laboratories and ARUP Laboratories to put its diagnostic in the hands of more clinicians. In December, Roche ($RHHBY) snatched up Ariosa to get its hands on the company's Harmony prenatal screening tool. Ariosa scored expanded national coverage for Harmony a week later, planning to offer its test to 125 million additional patients across private insurance plans such as Cigna, Anthem and Premera.

- read the release

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