Sector Snap: Life science stocks trade lower

NEW YORK -- Shares of life science tool makers mostly traded lower Wednesday after a Cantor Fitzgerald analyst said some of the companies are making big moves into the development of diagnostic tests, but it will be several more years before testing becomes a major source of revenue.

Such diagnostic tests analyze genes to diagnose disesases.

Analyst Sung Ji Nam said that for now, the major sources of growth for companies including Illumina Inc. and Life Technologies Corp. will be sales of new, more advanced gene-sequencing products and disposable items used in testing, and their biggest clients will remain academic and clinical customers. Growth from diagnostic products will take more time, she said.

Illumina is a genetic analysis instrument company based in San Diego. Life Technologies, which is based in Carlsbad, Calif., offers biological technology including DNA synthesis, protein analysis, stem cell tools and chemicals used in forensics and food safety. Nam noted that both companies have made aggressive moves into diagnostic testing, including acquisitions and new partnerships, but they have not established major advantages over companies who do a significant amount of business in diagnostics.

Nam kept "Hold" ratings on shares of both companies. She raised her price target on Illumina shares to $45 from $43 and maintained a target of $47 per share for Life Technologies stock.

Amid a broader stock market decline, Life Technologies shares lost 73 cents to $48.45 and Illumina shares rose 39 cents to $51.26. Elsewhere in the life science tools sector, shares of Waters Corp. dipped $1.63 to $80.35 while Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. shares fell 56 cents to $58.32. PerkinElmer Inc. stock gave up 37 cents to $29.34 and Agilent Technologies Inc. shares slid 68 cents to $37.47.

In late afternoon trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 0.6 percent.