Exact Sciences is not a one-trick-pony with its Cologuard DNA stool test for colorectal cancer, chief financial officer Jeffrey Elliott told a gathering in Madison this week.

Exact has as many as 40 potential products in the pipeline, Elliott said, but he added, “We won’t pursue all of them.”

The main prospect for Exact’s second product is a blood test for lung cancer, aimed at the 1.5 million to 3 million patients across the U.S. each year who are found to have lung nodules.

An early study of nearly 400 people showed Exact’s potential screening product was more than 90 percent accurate in identifying cancerous lung nodules. The company expects to start a major test on the product in the first half of 2018, CEO Kevin Conroy has said.

Elliott said the study will take about two years, and it could be another year or two for a product to get to the market, if all goes well.

Elliott was the keynote speaker at the Tech Council Innovation Network’s luncheon meeting at the Sheraton Madison Hotel on Tuesday. About 150 people attended.

Elliott said more than 1 million people have gotten a prescription for Cologuard since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its sale in August 2014. Now that the home test kit has been available for three years, the company is contacting some of the first patients to let them know it’s time to get tested again.

Confidence in Cologuard

During a question-and-answer session with the audience, Elliott said he thinks it’s not likely that a competitor will come up with a product as effective as Cologuard any time soon. Cologuard has 30 patents, officials said, and is the third generation of a product Exact Sciences has been working on for 20 years — even before the company was brought to Madison from Massachusetts in 2009.

“We think the (intellectual property) protection is very strong,” Elliott said.

He said a competitor coming into the market today would probably have to spend as much as $1.5 billion to catch up with Exact.

One attendee asked if now is the time to sell Exact stock since at least two research analysts recently downgraded their rating from “buy” to “neutral” as the stock price has soared. But Elliott — a former research analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co. who joined Exact in June 2016 — demurred.

“We’re extremely optimistic” about the company’s long-term prospects, Elliott said.

He said Exact has about 1,200 employees and is trying to hire 175 more. The company is expanding its Badger Road test processing lab and is building a second lab on the West Side.

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Judy Newman is a business reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.