{a href=”external_link-1″}}Sequenom (Nasdaq: SQNM), a California-based drug technology company, plans to build a new facility and hire up to 242 workers over the next four years.

The firm will receive up to $2.3 million in state tax incentives if it meets job hiring commitments.

Gov. Bev Perdue announced the firm’s decision at the NCBIO conference Wednesday morning in RTP. NCBIO is a trade group representing the state’s life science industry, which is the third largest in the country and employs some 50,000 people.

Paul Maier, Sequenom’s chief financial officer, appeared with Perdue. He said the firm picked North Carolina over Texas for the facility. Sequenom will invest $18 million in the building, which it plans to lease. Final terms of that agreement are still being negotiated, he added.

“Sequenom is rapidly advancing innovative technologies and has been looking at the right venue to expand its capacity, so we’re extremely pleased to have reached an agreement with North Carolina,” Maier said in a statement. “The North Carolina region shows great promise for us, as an ideal location on the East Coast with a robust like-minded community and commitment to advancing our technologies through education and jobs creation.”

The Sequenom Center for Molecular Medicine will develop a range of molecular diagnostic tests, with a focus on prenatal diseases and conditions. These genetic tests provide better patient management alternatives for obstetricians, geneticists and maternal fetal medicine specialists.

(Watch WRAL’s video report here.)

The MaterniT21 test, which is expected to launch in the coming months, is meant to advance prenatal screening for trisomy 21, the most common cause of Down syndrome.

Maier cited four reasons in picking North Carolina:

1. Access to RDU International Airport and other logistics services
2. The availability of lab space
3. Quality of the region’s work force
4. Access to worker training programs at area universities

Founded in 1994, Sequenom employs more than 200 people. The company focuses on tests and instrumentation with an emphasis on molecular diagnostics and DNA analysis. Sequenom developed its own analysis platform called MassARRAY.

The company has a market cap of around $500 million based on its stock price.

Wall Street analysts have a target range of between $3 and $11 for the stock. Four consider it a “strong buy,” three rate it as a “buy,” three as a “hold” and one as a “sell,”” according to Thomson First Call.

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