“November 13, 2000 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

Last Thursday was the day Dynacare, Inc. hoped to place its initial public offering. Dynacare seeks to raise as much as $89 million by selling its shares to the public. However, the unresolved presidential election on Tuesday caused turmoil on the stock market during the remainder of the week. As this issue of THE DARK REPORT went to press, there was no further news about Dynacare’s IPO.


Besides Dynacare, two other private laboratory companies have declared their intent to sell shares to the public through an IPO. Specialty Laboratories, Inc. wants to raise $86.3 million. American Medical Laboratories, Inc. is shooting for $115 million. All three laboratory companies would like to place their stock in public hands at the earliest possible date. But conditions in the public stock markets must be favorable for these IPOs to succeed.


Genetic technology plays an important role in a new assay for colon cancer screening which is under development at the Mayo Clinic. Using a stool specimen, the test looks for genetic abnormalities in snippets of DNA shed by cancerous colon cells or pre-cancerous polyps. In an initial study of 61 patients, the stool sample test identified 91% of early cancers and 73% of precancerous polyps. The test was also negative for the 28 control specimens. This combination of sensitivity and specificity excites researchers. They believe this test has potential to be used as a widespread screening tool, possibly within two or three years.


This test is a tangible exam- ple of the potential for genetics-based diagnostic assays to improve the quality of healthcare while reducing the cost of care. This DNA test is patient-friendly. It requires no dietary restrictions, enemas. or other preparations. It is also less expensive than procedures such as sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy, which cost between $1,000 to $2,500. Because of low cost and ease of use, researchers are hopeful this new DNA test could be used in mass screening of the population for colon cancer, which currently kills 60,000 Americans per year. As a high-volume test, this assay would boost revenues at most clinical laboratories.


Here’s a sign of the changing times in our society. Beckman Coulter Inc. gained FDA clearance to market a test for the detection of the drug called “ecstasy” on the street. The test is also designed to detect other amphetamines.


Cytyc Corp.’s finances are booming, as is its stock price. Cytyc reported a 10-fold rise in third quarter profits, and Wall Street bid Cytyc shares up by 30%. Cytyc believes that 33% of all Pap smears performed in the United States now use Thin Prep® Pap Test kits.


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