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Better diagnosis will save lives, boost company profit

Cancer Genetics makes tests, services to improve treatment

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Micro Technologist Benjamin Ritter works on DNA purification at Cancer Genetics. The Rutherford company, which went public last month, makes genomic-based oncology tests and services designed to improve treatment of cancer.
Micro Technologist Benjamin Ritter works on DNA purification at Cancer Genetics. The Rutherford company, which went public last month, makes genomic-based oncology tests and services designed to improve treatment of cancer. - (AARON HOUSTON)

Cancer Genetics CEO Panna Sharma pins his hopes on the conviction that better diagnosis of cancer will extend lives and save money. It follows that investors would reward such diagnostics companies, he said.

“We have to find a way of bending the cost curve,” Sharma said. “The only way to do that is to get more accurate and comprehensive diagnosis up front, and map it to the proper treatment.”

Cancer Genetics believes its stable of proprietary products, coupled with a focused marketing plan, distinguishes itself, a belief that drove the company's decision to go public last month.

Cancer Genetics Inc. offered 600,000 shares priced at $10 in its April 4 initial public offering. The stock now trades at about $11.50. Listed over the counter now, Sharma said the company expects to trade on the Nasdaq once it achieves shareholder equity requirements.

The Rutherford company makes genomic-based oncology tests and services designed to improve treatment of cancer. Cancer Genetics' portfolio contains proprietary tests that target several hard-to-treat cancers and a range of urogenital ailments, and sells its products to hospitals, cancer centers and doctors' offices.

The company's strategy includes seeking partnerships with community hospitals so patients can be treated without having to travel long distances to prestigious cancer centers. Sharma says about 80 percent of cancer patients are first diagnosed at community hospitals, so providing those institutions with better tools makes sense.

Cancer Genetics has also formed a venture with the Mayo Clinic and plans to partner with additional research centers, universities, and biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. It will also seek international partnerships to support global growth, part of an overall plan the company believes will pay dividends.

Cancer Genetics reports 2012 revenue at $4.3 million, up 43 percent from the prior year revenue of $3 million. Sharma said the company expects similar growth in 2013, though it's not yet profitable, with a $7.6 million operating loss in 2012, down from an $8.2 million deficit the prior year.

Cancer Genetics sees emerging economies as a growth area, noting 8 percent of its 2012 revenue is from sale of oncology products and services to the developing world. Mexico, Brazil and Turkey are among the fastest-growing countries for use of molecular diagnostics products for oncology.

The company netted about $6.9 million from the IPO, money Sharma said will be used mostly to bolster its sales force. It has six salespeople now, and aims to double that by year's end.

Discussing the company's philosophy, Sharma says more accurately characterizing a cancer patient's genetic profile is the critical step to avoiding a wrong diagnosis that can lead to expensive and sometimes unnecessary treatments like chemotherapy.

“If you are able to monitor genetically what's happening to you, you can intervene more quickly,” Sharma said.

Benefits to the patient are straightforward: longer and healthier lives.

“At the end of the day, we're not just doing research, we are able to affect patients' lives,” Sharma said.

E-mail to: tomz@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @biztzanki

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