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Sequenom jumps on Down syndrome test outlook

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Sequenom Inc. surged Friday after the company said demand for its maternal Down syndrome test is improving and it expects to surpass its previous guidance for testing volume.

Sequenom said at the end of October it was handling about 1,700 MaterniT21 Plus samples a week, which projects to a rate of about 90,000 tests per year. The company said it ran about 18,000 of the tests during the third quarter and will "significantly exceed" its estimate of 50,000 billed tests in 2012.

Its shares advanced 64 cents, or 21 percent, to $3.67 in midday trading.

MaterniT21 Plus is a blood test intended for women who are at high risk for a Down syndrome pregnancy. Sequenom says the test can detect the chromosomal anomaly that causes Down syndrome as early as 10 weeks into a pregnancy. The test also looks for two other chromosomal disorders.

During the third quarter, Sequenom lost $30.2 million, or 26 cents per share, compared with $18.4 million, or 19 cents per share, a year earlier. The company said it lost more money because of costs associated with the growth in testing volume. Revenue climbed 68 percent, to $22.9 million from $13.6 million, as diagnostic test sales jumped to $12.5 million from $2.2 million.

Analysts were expecting a loss of 24 cents per share and $22.9 million in revenue, according to FactSet.