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Heard on the Street: Could the big one that got away be coming back to Rochester?

TheDestination Medical Centerinitiative and its Discovery Square subdistrict aimed at fostering bioscience business development could make Rochester attractive to a booming firm.

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Could the Med City have another chance at snagging "the Big One" that got away?

The Destination Medical Centerinitiative and its Discovery Square subdistrict aimed at fostering bioscience business development could make Rochester attractive to a booming firm with more than 2,000 employees that chose Madison, Wis., over Rochester back in 2009.

Exact Scienceslicensed technology from Mayo Clinicin 2009 and 2012 for Cologuard, an FDA-approved DNA test for colorectal cancer. The test is based on research by Mayo Clinic’s Dr. David A. Ahlquistand his laboratory.

Exact was originally based in Boston, and Rochester officials at one point hoped the firm would move here. However, Madison, Wis., gave the company $1 million to entice the growing company to move its headquarters there in 2009.

The popularity of Cologuard has grown to where it’s common to see cutsey TV commercials touting it. Exact Sciences reported $454.5 million in revenue in 2018, up 71 percent from 2017.


Exact Science is a prime example of the type of job-generating company that Rochester and Mayo Clinic have been trying to lure to town or grow here for years with the Minnesota BioBusiness Centerand various incubators.

The company has grown a big footprint in Wisconsin and is wrapping up construction of a second multi-million lab in the Madison area, where most of its workforce lives.

However, Rochester’s opportunity could be at hand. Exact Sciences is looking to build a third lab, just as the company is working on new products with Mayo Clinic.

CEO and chairman Kevin Conroydescribes the proposed third site as focusing on research and development. The company’s media team confirms Exact Sciences is looking to base this lab outside of Wisconsin, though they will not name potential sites under consideration.

Local leaders won’t say if they are pursuing the project, though DMC EDA executive director Lisa Clarkeand the developer of the 89,000-square-foot One Discovery Squaresay they are aware of Exact Sciences and its activity.

While it’s not known if Rochester is vying for the new lab, it is clear that Exact Sciences has been deepening its ties with Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Paul Limburg, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, was named co-chief medical officer for cancer detection for Exact Sciences in early 2018. He and Mayo Clinic have financial interest in Exact Sciences.

Exact Science recently reported optimistic study results of a new blood test to detect pancreatic cancer. The test was developed with Mayo Clinic. Exact Sciences and Mayo Clinic are collaborating to identify biomarkers for 15 of the deadliest cancers, such as pancreatic and esophageal.


It seems possible that "the Big One" could be swimming back to Rochester, and it might even jump into the boat.

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