(CPHD) Cepheid Targets Infectious Diseases

Cepheid (CPHD) announced the appointment of Robert Kwiatkowski as the Vice President of Infectious Disease Research and Development. He would be reporting to David Persing, the company’s Chief Medical and Technology Officer.

Dr. Kwiatkowski walks into Cepheid with extensive experience in nucleic acid infectious disease test development and management, including tests for HPV, HIV and HCV. Before this appointment, Dr. Kwiatkowski was responsible for managing infectious disease test development to support multiple automated platforms at Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics.

Cepheidhas a broad portfolio of tests that runs on its GeneXpert system. Although the company is one of the leading players in the Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI) segment, it is also looking at expanding in non-HAI markets which includes critical infectious diseases, women’s health, and oncology and genetics.

Additional tests under development in the areas of HIV, HCV and HPV are targeted to be released in Europe within the 2012-2013 timeframe. Successful commercialization of these tests should further improve Cepheid’s top line going ahead.We believe the new appointment has been made to pursue this goal.

Apart from expansion of its menu, Cepheid is also looking towards expanding in both the US and international market. Since the company receives only 20% of its Clinical revenues from outside US, it plans to expand its presence in this region.

The steps undertaken by Cepheid includes establishing presence in Asia Pacific, extending distribution reach in Latin America and India, and adopting direct sales operations in Western Europe. These steps should lead to better system placements in the forthcoming period.

Recommendation

Based on a strong growth of Clinical reagents, Cepheid recorded a 22% growth in product sales during the last reported quarter and improved its bottom line. With a broad portfolio of tests, the company remains as one of the leading players in the HAI market.

While MRSA surveillance continues to be the largest test, its C. difficile test is gaining increasing acceptance. However, we remain concerned about the paucity of capital and tough competitive scenario.

Weare currently Neutral on Cepheid, which also corresponds to the Zacks #3 Rank (Hold) in the short term.

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