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Genetic Tech Company to Acquire Prenatal Test Developer

Pregnancy health (CDC)

(U.S. Centers for Disease Control)

Illumina Inc., a developer of genetic diagnostics systems in San Diego, will acquire Verinata Health Inc. in Redwood City, California, a provider of non-invasive prenatal tests for high-risk pregnancies. The deal will pay Verinata Health $350 million, with up to $100 million in additional milestone payments through 2015.

Illumnia offers technology for research and diagnostics, leading to molecular medicine and personalized treatments based on a patient’s genomic composition. The company’s technology covers single nucleotide polymorphism genotyping — the measurement of genetic sequencing variations — gene expression profiles, epigenetics that profile changes in genetic sequence functions, and proteomics that determine the presence of proteins in cells and their interaction.

The privately held Verinata Health developed a prenatal test called Verifi that analyzes a sample of blood (7 to 10 milliliters) from a pregnant woman for the most common fetal chromosome abnormalities called aneuploidy, caused by an extra or missing chromosome. Administered by a physician, the test detects conditions such as Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, and Patau syndrome. An optional expanded analysis can test for Turner syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome, and Jacobs syndrome.

A blood sample is considered a safer testing procedure than amniocentesis, the usual and more invasive testing procedure for chromosome abnormalities, which requires extracting amniotic fluid that surrounds and protects a baby during pregnancy. The Verifi analysis is based on high-throughput parallel genetic sequencing of the entire genome using the company’s algorithm for aneuploidy detection. The company says the results are more definitive than probabilities returned by risk score-based tests based on protein serum screens.

In September 2012, Illumina acquired BlueGnome Ltd. in Cambridge, U.K. a developer of diagnostics for genetic abnormalities associated with developmental delay, cancer, and infertility. One of BlueGnome’s tests is a preimplantation genetic screen for counting the chromosomes in a single human cell, administered at in vitro fertilization centers, that can increase pregnancy rates for women and reducing miscarriages. The Verinata and BlueGnome acquisitions are expected to increase Illumina’s profile in the reproductive health market.

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Hat tip: Xconomy

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