AP News

Test developer Exact Sciences loses $14 M in 4Q

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Medical test developer Exact Sciences Corp. widened its fourth-quarter loss as its expenses jumped sharply, particularly its research and development costs.

Shares tumbled on the news, falling 78 cents, or 6.9 percent, to close at $10.57 on Wednesday.

The company, based in Madison, Wis., reported a loss of $13.99 million, or 22 cents per share. That compares with a loss of $9.9 million, or 18 cents per share, in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The per-share loss in the latest quarter would have been higher, but the company issued nearly 10 million additional shares of common stock in 2012, boosting the number outstanding to about 63.6 million.

Revenue was virtually flat at $1.04 million. Exact Sciences' only revenue is from licensing fees.

The company is developing what could be its first product, a screening test to detect colorectal cancer early on, when it's most treatable. The noninvasive screening test, meant to be widely used, utilizes DNA technology to find possible signs of cancer and even precancer in a person's stool. It could indicate that more sophisticated follow-up diagnostic testing is needed.

Stool DNA testing is one of the methods included in screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society and the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer, according to Exact Sciences. While colorectal cancer is the most preventable cancer, in about 60 percent of patients it's detected in late stages, when it's toughest and most expensive to treat.

The company's fourth-quarter expenses jumped 37 percent, to $15.08 million, on big increases in sales and marketing spending and R&D costs. The company said that was primarily because of an ongoing clinical trial of the cancer screening test.

For all of 2012, the company lost $52.4 million, or 88 cents per share, on revenue of $4.14 million.

Exact Sciences ended 2012 with cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities totaling $108.1 million, up from $93.4 million a year earlier.

CEO Kevin T. Conroy said in a statement that the company is making good progress toward assembling data needed to seek approval from U.S. regulators.

"We remain confident that the clinical trial will deliver strong results, and continue to actively and systematically prepare for the test's commercialization," he said.

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