) recently announced that it has expanded its endocrine diagnostics
portfolio with the recent introduction of four new tests panels for
congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), an endocrine disorder mostly
found in newborns, children and women. Quest Diagnostics claims
that the new CAH panels of tests, based on advanced analytical-test
method, will increase patient care by fast detection and treatment
of CAH in comparison with traditional tests. The new panels of
tests have been developed by Nichols Institute, Quest Diagnostics'
advanced research, development and testing center.
CAH is a hereditary disorder that secretes excessive quantity of
androgens (a family of male hormones including testosterone) in
newborns and children of both genders leading to development of
male features in the body. The appropriate and timely diagnosis of
CAH is of utmost importance as this disorder can be fatal for
newborns if not treated properly. Currently, CAH screening of
newborns is extensively done in the US.
The entire set of offerings consists of a panel for newborn
screening for CAH. In this panel, CAH tests use the highly
sensitive and specific liquid-chromatography tandem mass
spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) measurement technique to analyze all the 13
steroids linked with CAH. Moreover, this test can be performed on a
sample volume of 0.1 milliliter, suitable for newborn heel-prick
sample collection. On the other hand, the conventional clinical CAH
test requires bigger sample volume and is based on immunoassays,
less trustworthy than LC/MS/MS while measuring certain steroid
levels in children and women.
Apart from the above panel of tests, Quest diagnostics also
introduced three other CAH panels by LC/MS/MS, all developed by
Nichols Institute. These are targeted towards newborns with acute
stress conditions (who can be misdiagnosed for CAH), adults and
children suffering from the most common form of CAH. The fourth one
is meant to differentiate non-classic CAH from polycystic ovary
Quest Diagnostics is currently focusing on latent areas such as
drugs-of-abuse testing, gene-based, esoteric testing for cancer,
cardiovascular disease, infectious disease and neurological
disorders. The company is also focusing on women's health. It has
launched SureSwab for gynecological infections and also Spinal
Muscular Atrophy testing, which has been witnessing significant
acceptance. Quest Diagnostics is witnessing higher demand for these
tests compared to routine tests.
In order to bolster this specialized side of business, Quest has
been pursuing accretive acquisitions such as Athena and Celera.
This apart, we are encouraged by Quest's efforts to improve its
sales effectiveness and strengthen its relationship with health
plans and payors.
However, the company continues to witness challenges with
respect to testing volume. Moreover, the competitive landscape is
tough with the presence of
Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings
). LabCorp is also targeting the esoteric testing space and has
acquired Genzyme Genetics to meet its objective. Quest Diagnostics
currently retains a short-term Zacks #3 Rank (Hold). We currently
have a Neutral recommendation on Quest and Lab Corp over the long
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