Exact Sciences Looks to Thrive in Blood-Based, Early Cancer Detection Space with Two New Buyouts
By Sangeeta Chakraborty, Ph.D.
On October 27th, Exact Sciences announced its plan to add Thrive’s CancerSEEK to its growing array of early cancer diagnostics through a buyout of the privately held Thrive Earlier Detection Corp., in a stock and cash deal worth $2.15 billion. Soon after the announcement, the stock price of Exact Sciences sky-rocketed to $134.33/per share on Tuesday afternoon.
The company is paying a total of $1.76 billion upfront to seal the deal, with 65% payable in common stock and 35% in cash. An additional $450 million is payable upon reaching certain milestones during the development and commercialization of the multi cancer screening test. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021, contingent upon regulatory approval. To help fund part of the acquisition, Exact Sciences sold $869 million in common stock in a direct offering to 10 institutional investors.
“The acquisition of Thrive is a giant leap toward ensuring blood-based, multi-cancer screening becomes a reality and eventually, the standard of care,” Kevin Conroy, chairman and CEO of Exact Sciences, said in a statement.
Thrive Earlier Detection Corp.—a healthcare company pioneering in cancer diagnostics launched cancerSEEK in 2019. The liquid biopsy test was designed to detect many cancers at earlier disease stages. Developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, cancerSEEK hasn’t hit the market yet, although reports of its promising results have been out since April of this year. The liquid biopsy assay is a blood-based screening test that looks for specific protein biomarkers and mutations in cell-free DNA (shed from tumor cells) and can detect the presence of up to 10 different cancer types.
In the first trial of cancerSEEK (DETECT-A), researchers from Hopkins, in cooperation with Geisinger Health System, screened 10,000 women for circulating tumor DNA in their blood. These women had no history of cancer at the time of enrollment; however, DETECT-A picked up 10 different cancer types in 26 participants, almost double the number identified with conventional screening or symptoms. 7 of those cancers have no recommended screening guidelines. The test had about a 5% rate of false positives. Thrive, which is further developing the assay, unveiled the exciting data earlier this year at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting, implying the test could be a gamechanger in early-stage cancer diagnostics.
Exact Sciences’ big acquisition follows Illumina’s, which, 5 weeks ago, acquired Grail, its spinout diagnostic company, for $8 billion. The string of buyouts does not stop here, as Exact Sciences also bought Base Genomics, an epigenetics company, to expand its DNA methylation capabilities. “Base Genomics’ differentiated technology is highly complementary to Exact Sciences’ existing methylation expertise and multi-marker approach. This acquisition will enhance Exact Sciences’ efforts in cancer diagnostics across the continuum”, Exact Sciences said in a statement.
The double acquisition of Thrive and Base Genomics by Exact Sciences could advance its efforts to further its cancer diagnostics capabilities and be a leader in blood-based cancer screening.
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