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Biotech exec lied about Down syndrome test, says SEC

Sequenom, a San Diego based biotech company developing prenatal genetic tests, is in hot water again – this time with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Almost exactly a year ago, executives at Sequenom admitted that four employees had “mishandled” data supporting the company’s noninvasive prenatal test for Down syndrome, and that the test would have to be validated anew. Now, the federal regulator has charged the company’s former head of research, with lying about the accuracy of the test in at least three public presentations to investors and analysts, Reuters reports.

In its complaint, filed yesterday, the SEC charges that Elizabeth Dragon, then Sequenom’s vice president of research and development, publically stated on three occasions between June 2008 and January 2009 that the test was nearly 100% accurate, while knowing this was not the case. The complaint goes on to say that studies on the test’s validity were not blinded, as Dragan said they were, and that she revealed the identity of samples to other employees in order to skew the results in favor of its accuracy.

According to Reuters, the company still hopes to develop the test, and said last month it plans to launch it by the end of next year.

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