San Diego’s Sequenom Steps Back Into the Spotlight, Sort Of

3/17/10Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego-based Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM) is entering a critical phase in its management of the corporate crisis that erupted in its laboratories last year. It’s stepping back into the spotlight.

As a public company, Sequenom doesn’t have much choice. The maker of genetic diagnostic equipment and supplies says in its latest annual report that as of Dec. 31, it has an accumulated deficit of $597.3 million and available cash of $42.7 million. That means, as Sequenom chairman and CEO Harry Hixson told investors and analysts Monday, the company needs to secure additional financing this year.

Sequenom has been in its bunker since last April 29, after announcing a delay in the long-expected launch of its flagship test—a non-invasive genetic test for Down syndrome—due to “employee mishandling of R&D test data and results.” A subsequent internal investigation prompted a special committee formed by Sequenom’s board to fire CEO Harry Stylli, senior vice-president of R&D Elizabeth Dragon, and three other employees. The CFO and another executive resigned.

After several months of additional corporate governance cleanup, including tighter R&D controls and the appointment of two new scientific advisers and two independent directors, Hixson apparently decided Sequenom is ready to come out of the bunker and begin talking again. Hixson is scheduled to make a 30-minute presentation this morning at Roth Capital’s 22nd Annual Growth Stock Conference, which is being held at the Ritz Carlton in Dana Point, CA. Next week, he is set to make an appearance at the Barclays Capital 2010 Global Healthcare Conference in Miami, FL.

But Sequenom has yet to explain the what, why, or how certain employees mishandled its R&D data—and what consequences, if any, resulted. Remember, the mishandled R&D data were intended to … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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