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QIAGEN (QGEN) Launches QIAseq Kit, Enhances COVID-19 Portfolio

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Zacks Equity Research
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QIAGEN N.V. QGEN recently announced the launch of its QIAseq DIRECT SARS-CoV-2 Kit. The kit is a viral genome enrichment and library preparation solution that significantly lessens library turnaround times and plastics use unlike the ARTIC project protocols (primer-based approaches for next-generation sequencing or NGS).

For investors’ note, the lab and bioinformatic protocols of the ARTIC network (funded by the Wellcome Trust) are considered to be the gold standard in NGS-based classification of SARS-CoV-2 genomes.

Per management, the latest kit is an important extension of the company’s QIAseq range which belongs to the Genomics/NGS product line.

With the latest kit launch, QIAGEN aims to strengthen its COVID-19 portfolio under the broader Molecular Diagnostics business on a global scale.

Few Words on the Kit

The QIAseq DIRECT SARS-CoV-2 kit supports sample multiplexing — the process of allowing large numbers of libraries to be pooled and sequenced simultaneously during a single run — for a larger sample within a few hours. This allows to add the number of samples per sequencer to over 6,000 on the highest-throughput instruments. Additionally, the kit also cuts plastics usage by half.

Further, the kit is supported by the new QIAGEN Digital Insights CoV-2 Insights Service, which is a custom-made cloud-based solution for viral genome analysis, characterization and reporting.

Significance of the Launch

The latest kit by QIAGEN significantly lessens hands-on time, requires no fragmentation or ligation reactions, and can be easily automated with robotic liquid handlers. Further, the viral enrichment approach delivers improved coverage uniformity across the SARS-CoV-2 genome as well as deeper sequencing performance unlike the most widely used amplicon-based options.

Given the increasing usage of high-throughput NGS for genomic surveillance and research on the continuously emerging new and potentially dangerous COVID-19 variants, these viral mutations are becoming an area of concern, especially with regard to vaccine efficacy. This, in turn, is creating a pressure on the global sequencing laboratories to provide faster results. The latest sequencing solution from QIAGEN is expected to serve this purpose.

Per management, the kit is expected to allow for more accurate detection and quantification of molecular variants while significantly lowering the time and workflow steps required for library preparation. This, in turn, is likely to increase lab efficiency and throughput.

Further, the QIAseq DIRECT SARS-CoV-2 kit, along with QIAGEN’s Digital Insights CoV-2 Insights Service, aids in large-scale surveillance applications, and is available worldwide. It also comes with a fast and easy setup.

Industry Prospects

Per a report by Grand View Research, the global NGS market was valued at $3.99 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14.4% between 2021 and 2028. Factors like the continued spreading of the pandemic, along with emergence of new strains, high accuracy and speed, and technological advancements in NGS are expected to drive the market.

Given the market potential, the recent launch is expected to significantly boost QIAGEN’s Molecular Diagnostics business.

Other NGS and COVID-19-Related Developments

Of late, QIAGEN has been making significant progress with respect to its fight against the pandemic, thus boosting its Molecular Diagnostics business.

The company, in March, received the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (“EUA”) for the NeuMoDx Flu A-B/RSV/SARS-CoV-2 Vantage Assay. The test is expected to enable faster identification and differentiation of individuals suspected of respiratory viral infection consistent with COVID-19.

QIAGEN, in February, announced an extension of its partnership with INOVIO Pharmaceuticals, Inc. INO, with a new master collaboration agreement to develop liquid biopsy-based companion diagnostic products based on NGS technology to complement INOVIO’s therapies.

The same month, during its fourth-quarter 2020 earnings call, the company confirmed that its Life Sciences arm registered the highest growth of the year during the quarter, partly due to robust demand for universal NGS solutions.

QIAGEN, in January, announced the addition of QIAcuity One-Step Viral RT-PCR kit for wastewater testing to its growing portfolio of COVID-19 products. The same month, QIAGEN announced it plans to resubmit its QIAreach SARS CoV-2 Antigen Test to the FDA for EUA to detect SARS-CoV-2 antigens in people with active infections within a few minutes.

Price Performance

Shares of the company have gained 26.5% in the past year compared with the industry’s 6.3% rise and S&P 500’s 51.1% growth.

Zacks Rank & Other Key Picks

Currently, QIAGEN carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

A few other top-ranked stocks from the broader medical space are Hologic, Inc. HOLX and Hill-Rom Holdings, Inc. HRC.

Hologic’s long-term earnings growth rate is estimated at 15.4%. The company presently sports a Zacks Rank #2. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Hill-Rom’s long-term earnings growth rate is estimated at 7.3%. It currently carries a Zacks Rank #2.

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