NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Shares of Sequenom Inc. jumped Wednesday after a Lazard Capital Markets analyst took a neutral stance on the company's prospects, still cautioning that issues with a Down syndrome test could hurt the diagnostic test maker. The stock rose 31 cents, or 10.4 percent, to $3.29 in midday trading. Shares have traded between $2.86 and $29.14 over the last 52 weeks. In April, the stock crashed after the company said it will delay launching its SEQureDx Down syndrome test because of "employee mishandling" that the company said appeared to affect all studies of the test. Lazard analyst Dr. Sean Lavin upgraded the stock Wednesday to "Hold" from "Sell" and said the rewards for investors are likely greater than the risks with the stock trading so low. Future study results for the test could boost the stock if they are positive, he added. Those results are expected toward the end of the year or possibly in 2010. San Diego-based Sequenom has said it hopes to launch DNA- and RNA-based versions of the test but will begin sales only after the results of ongoing large and independent studies are published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
Lavin meanwhile said a move by competitor Qiagen to launch its DNA extraction technology could be a good sign for Sequenom, adding credibility to the company's market. "We believe Qiagen's interest helps validate the robustness of the potential market for diagnostic assays," Lavin said, citing the focus on the two key markets of prenatal and cancer tests. The stock will likely remain flat for some time, he added, with future independent study data bringing the possibility of boosting the stock value past $20 per share if successful. Negative results, though, could send the stock below $2, he said.