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Exact Looks to Sales Force, Ads to Boost Cancer Test Sales in 2018

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Exact Sciences plans to expand its sales force by 200 employees, ramp up its digital and social media marketing campaigns, and introduce a new “national celebrity spokesperson” this year, as the company seeks to increase sales of its flagship product, a stool-based DNA test for colorectal cancer.

Madison, WI-based Exact (NASDAQ: EXAS) detailed some of its plans for 2018 and beyond in a corporate presentation the company will give on Tuesday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

As it did last year, Exact released preliminary figures related to the company’s financial and business performance for the three-month period ending Dec. 31. On the whole, Exact’s fourth-quarter results either met or exceeded projections previously made by analysts—and the company itself.

According to the unaudited numbers Exact released Sunday, its revenues in the fourth quarter were between $86.9 million and $87.9 million. That’s well above the range the company projected previously ($75.4 million to $78.4 million) and analysts’ average estimate of $79.1 million.

Exact said it completed about 176,000 tests of Cologuard in the fourth quarter. The total was within the range the company previously projected, though it fell slightly short of analysts’ estimate of 177,000 completed tests.

“An increasing number of people are being screened for colon cancer with our accurate, non-invasive test,” said Kevin Conroy, chairman and CEO of Exact Sciences, in a prepared statement. “As demand for Cologuard strengthens, we will continue to invest in our team, facilities, and infrastructure.”

Some investors may have viewed the fact that Exact did not handily beat its estimate of completed tests—as it had done for several consecutive quarters previously—as a reason for concern. The company’s stock price closed the trading day Monday at $49.90 a share, down about 13.3 percent from Friday’s closing price of $57.53 a share.

This year, Exact plans to increase its sales force to 550 employees from about 350 today, said J.P. Fielder, the company’s senior director of corporate communications. As of November, Exact had more than 1,200 employees, up from 768 at the beginning of 2017.

In recent years, Exact has sought to supplement its sales force with online and television advertising campaigns for Cologuard, which went on sale in 2014 after receiving FDA approval and Medicare coverage.

Fielder said Monday that Exact plans to continue running its television ads, which are broadcast to a national audience. Conroy has said previously that his company’s commercials are specifically targeted at doctors, who are typically the ones helping patients to understand the risks of colorectal cancer.

According to Fielder, Exact plans to “broaden” its efforts to market Cologuard through online ads and social media posts. The presentation Exact plans to show at the J.P. Morgan conferences shows that the company uses platforms such as Google, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), and YouTube to reach consumers.

Late last year, Exact said it agreed to terms with the PGA Tour Champions, a series of golf tournaments for players ages 50 and above, for one of its competitions to be named “The Cologuard Classic.” The event, which takes place in Tucson, AZ, will begin on Feb. 26 this year.

Exact also said it plans to announce a new celebrity spokesperson, who Fielder said will help the company “reach an audience of people turning 50” through its advertisements. (The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a group that provides recommendations around testing patients for various diseases, including different forms of cancer, recommends screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 50.)

Exact’s statements this week about accelerating its push to boost Cologuard sales follow its announcement in November that it intends to quadruple its current test-processing capacity by mid-2019.