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New Member Spotlight: Exact Sciences

UIDP welcomes Exact Sciences as a new member organization. UIDP spoke with Scott Fisher, Ph.D., director of academic and network collaborations, about Exact Science’s goals for membership in UIDP. Scott believes in keeping people first, advocates for the earlier detection of cancer, and strives to foster innovation through academic collaboration to bring forward novel cancer detection tools.

UIDP: What is Exact Sciences hoping to gain from membership with UIDP in the coming year?  

Fisher: What we’re hoping to gain is insight into how other organizations are working with UIDP and how the academic centers are working with others in industry. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but we want to apply best practices from our colleagues in different sectors and look at ways we can implement  those and also innovate and contribute through the work that we’re doing.

We are very open to collaboration and have an entire group dedicated to collaboration with universities. We’re looking for partnerships and collaborations all the time.

UIDP: What are the current challenges that Exact Sciences is facing in the development of university-industry partnerships?  

Fisher: One of the challenges is that there are a lot of touchpoints within the university, and many times a lot of touchpoints within companies, too. In our company, my group owns the relationship with academia. But with an acquisition or with the licensing of a new technology, a natural part of the inorganic growth we see there is associated with the inorganic pull-through of the academic partnerships that the technology came out of—a university or the company that spun out of that research. So there is an existing relationship that preceded our engagement, and we need to understand how to navigate these touchpoints.  We also work with very large hospital systems, so speaking with one group in one part of the country may not necessarily translate to touchpoints at headquarters, or vice versa.

UIDP: Please share innovative ways that Exact Sciences is making an impact on U-I interactions.  

Fisher: We’ve had an extremely successful partnership with the Mayo Clinic over the past 12 years. It started with the late Dr. David Ahlquist and is now a collaboration with Dr. John Kisiel.  This is where a lot of the Cologuard technology was developed. Dr. Ahlquist was also a visionary behind multi-cancer screening, with a grand vision of looking at someone’s blood and being able to diagnose many different types of cancer.  So we have an ongoing collaboration where new technology and ideas are being tested and vetted every day. As we grow, we’re using that structure as a model with our new academic partners.

UIDP: Please share something about Exact Sciences that people may not know.

Fisher: I think more people know about the Cologuard colorectal cancer screening test that Exact Sciences developed than they do about the company. It’s what we’re best known for.

We’re in a steep growth curve right now, and that is fueling more mergers and acquisitions, which is fueling more  academic pull-through activity. It’s fun to be part of a company that is scaling in that way,  seeing how much is in front of us in the future, and working hand in hand in the industry where the technologies are evolving just as fast as we are.