Monday, June 18, 2012
Kevin Conroy, Exact Sciences CEO
BOSTON -- One of the Madison area's most promising biotech companies could see its cancer-detection test approved next year, and could become a major Wisconsin employer shortly after that, the company's CEO told an audience at this year's BIO International.
Exact Sciences has developed an colon cancer screening test that utilizes slight changes in DNA, a fast, inexpensive, safe test that could rapidly become the preferred method doctors use to screen people for colon cancer, said Kevin Conroy, the company's CEO.
"That's a huge market opportunity," Conroy said. "It's a $3 billion global market."
Once the test is approved, he said, Exact Sciences could be employing hundreds of people in the Madison area because the worldwide demand for the test will be enormous.
"Colon cancer is the most preventable type of cancer that is the least prevented," Conroy said, noting that an accurate, fast, inexpensive test means many more people will be tested – and many more cases of colon cancer will be prevented.
Colon cancer kills a lot of people because most people are never screened for colon cancer until the disease has already reached the stage where it is difficult and expensive to treat, Conroy said.
Ultimately, he said, this test could "eradicate" colon cancer, which right now affects 1.2 million people worldwide, and 143,000 people a year in the United States, a third of whom die from the disease.
Exact Sciences is in the process of an enormous study, testing 10,000 volunteers with the new screening process. Once the study is completed, the FDA could approve the test by the end of next year – and Exact Sciences will have an exclusive product sought around the world.
"We've gone from a company with two employees to one with nearly 70 full-time employees today," Conroy said. "Once this test is approved, we could be employing hundreds of people."