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Madison's Exact Sciences to invest $350 million in city campus additions, 1,300 jobs

Madison's Exact Sciences to invest $350 million in city campus additions, 1,300 jobs

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Madison biomedical giant Exact Sciences is expanding its Wisconsin presence by investing $350 million in its local campus, thereby creating 1,300 new jobs, the company said Thursday.

"There were millions of people in a three month period of time who did not get their normal screening, and [a group of modelers] project that that will lead to an additional 10 thousand deaths from colon and breast cancer," Exact Sciences CEO Kevin Conroy said. "It's imperative that we get people back in to get a screening colonoscopy, or a Cologuard test, or a screening mammography....Cancer doesn't wait for COVID." Conroy discussed how there is overall drop off of 20 to 30 percent in the number interactions with health care even with telemedicine in Wisconsin. Exact Sciences' in-home Cologuard test has maintained its level of use during the COVID-19 crisis, and physicians are using this time to study the data on Cologuard as well as order it for patients without seeing them to make sure they get screened. "Our goal is to go from 60 to 65 percent of people screened in this country to 90 or 100 percent, and you can do that with a non-invasive test that you can do in the privacy of your home like Cologuard."

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Exact Sciences is adding a 266,000-square-foot research and development facility to its campus, as well as expanding existing lab and warehouse spaces, to accommodate its rapid growth — mainly spurred by high demand for the Cologuard test, which allows patients to screen themselves for colon cancer at home, as well as general clinical testing efforts, CEO Kevin Conroy said.

Construction crews will erect the research facility next to Exact’s corporate headquarters on 5505 Endeavor Lane inside University Research Park on the West Side. The lab and warehouse are additions to Exact’s Discovery Campus on 1 Exact Lane, which is located between Schroeder Road and the Beltline on the Southwest Side.

Work is underway on the lab and warehouse, and on track to be finished by the end of the year, said Scott Larrivee, associate director of corporate affairs. The company expects to break ground on its research and development building in the second quarter of 2022, with construction to wrap up in 2024, he said.

The research facility is meant to provide more space for Exact scientists not only to study how Cologuard can be improved, but also to develop products that detect several types of cancer early.

An example of that is Exact Sciences’ blood-based cancer screening, which is currently undergoing clinical trials. In September 2020, preliminary data demonstrated that the test, also known as a liquid biopsy, could identify between 83% and 87% of liver, lung, ovarian, pancreatic or stomach cancer cases, with a false positive rate of 5%.

The lab will feature new technology and automation to further support Cologuard product development. The warehouse would allow for storage at controlled temperatures, as well as for storing hazardous materials.

The additions will allow Exact to hire more scientists, engineers, software development staff, clinical laboratory workers, business analysts and customer support employees, Conroy said, adding the company is “bursting at the seams.”

The company currently has more than 6,500 employees. About 3,500 of those staff members are based in the Dane County area, Larrivee said.

Exact Sciences proposed warehouse expansion

Exact Sciences' proposed warehouse expansion.

The exteriors of the new and expanded buildings include aesthetic elements similar to existing Exact structures, according to design renderings that show a gray color scheme, large windows and glass facades.

To help the construction effort along, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. recently authorized increasing the company’s Enterprise Zone tax credits from $9 million to $27.5 million if Exact Sciences meets its job creation and investment goals in capital expenditures by 2025.

Enterprise zone tax credits are incentives for businesses to expand, rehabilitate or improve buildings within designated areas.

“Exact Sciences is an example of a company with deep Wisconsin roots that, with this investment, is committing to its future in our state,” WEDC Secretary Missy Hughes said in a statement Thursday. “As the company has grown to add operations around the world, Exact Sciences could have chosen to expand in other states but chose Wisconsin because of our outstanding, well-educated workers, excellent community infrastructure and support for its research and health care missions.”

Earlier this week, Exact Sciences also announced its acquisition of Marshfield-based genetics lab PreventionGenetics for $190 million. The move represented Exact’s entry into the hereditary cancer research market.

Emilie Heidemann picks her 5 favorite 2021 stories

One of the first stories I wrote this year for the Wisconsin State Journal wasn't published last January, but instead at the beginning of September — when I officially took my post as business reporter.

It was about a biotech startup that won the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce's Pressure Chamber contest for the novel ways it was looking to prevent cancer — and a coronavirus infection. The week I wrote that piece was when I discovered the treasure trove of story ideas that made up Madison's business community.

For example, the pandemic has spotlighted how partnerships are have seemed to be a favorable strategy for organizations looking to solve complex issues.

I covered that in an article regarding the State Street pop-up shops, or Culture Collectives. Several organizations came together to fill two vacant storefronts in the Downtown corridor, and simultaneously help minority business owners get their venture off the ground.

More ideas were spawned as I saw how Madison's businesses continue to navigate hiring challenges, supply chain shortages and other trials.

But through all that, there's been an apparent optimism for the future. 

That's showcased in how Fitchburg biotech giant Promega has conceptualized a way to detect coronavirus particles in wastewater, as well as how Madison biofuel company Virent aided in United Airlines piloting an aircraft using renewable jet fuel for the first time.

“Exact Sciences is an example of a company with deep Wisconsin roots that, with this investment, is committing to its future in our state.”

Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary

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