Exact Sciences buys cancer detection company Thrive for $2.15 billion

Stocks for Exact Sciences leaped 33% after it announced the acquisition of liquid biopsy rival Thrive and UK start-up Base Genomics.

Exact Sciences said it has agreed to buy Thrive for a cash and stock deal worth up to $2.15 billion, positioning it as a leader in the cancer-screening market.

The Madison-based company has made no secret of its ambitions to become the top player in the liquid biopsy space.

Thrive’s technology has attracted excitement from investors since it spun out of Johns Hopkins University. In July 2020, the company closed a $257m series B funding round, led by Casdin Capital and Section 32.

The CancerSEEK blood test is designed to detect multiple cancers by analysing tumour specific genomic mutations in circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) and cancer-associated protein biomarkers in plasma. These are then analysed by machine learning algorithms.

The company’s DETECT-A study was the first-ever prospective, interventional study of a multi-cancer blood test. Key findings from the study showed CancerSEEK had a specificity of 99.6% and identified cancer in individuals without a history of the disease. The study was hailed by Thrive as a “seminal moment” in cancer screening.

Exact Sciences, which is behind brands Cologuard and Oncotype DX, said it will combine CancerSEEK with its scientific platform, clinical organization, and commercial infrastructure. The company also announced the acquisition of Base Genomics, a UK epigenetics start-up for $410m. The start-up uses DNA methylation analysis to detect cancer in its early stages.

Exact Sciences Cologuard business also received a boost from updated guidelines released by the United States Preventive Services Task Force. The draft recommended colorectal cancer screening should now begin at age 45 and recommends Exact Sciences’ Cologuard as a screening method for all average-risk patients between the ages of 45 and 75.

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