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Genomic Health Expanding Sales Force by 20 Percent; Starts Prostate Dx Studies

By Edward Winnick

SAN FRANCISCO (GenomeWeb News) – Genomic Health officials today said that the firm has started the process of expanding its sales force by around 20 percent to help support the recent launch of its Oncotype DX DCIS Score test.

Speaking at the 30th Annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference today, Genomic Health CEO Kim Popovits outlined the firm's efforts to expand the customer base for its Oncotype DX tests and announced that the company has launched a clinical validation study of its prostate cancer test.

The new study, which is being performed with researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, is designed to determine if a multi-gene test can help distinguish aggressive disease requiring surgery from less aggressive disease that may require active surveillance in patients with early-stage prostate cancer.

Popovits noted that the prostate cancer indication is the biggest revenue opportunity for the firm in the near term. She said the company expects to report top-line results from the validation study this year with a commercial launch in 2013.

Genomic Health currently markets Oncotype DX tests for breast cancer, colon cancer, and DCIS. In addition to the upcoming prostate cancer test, it is targeting a 2013 launch for an oxaliplatin benefit test.

The firm currently sells tests to customers in 60 countries and is seeking to increase reimbursement in global markets, Popovits also noted.

The sales force expansion, which will add to the firm's current staff of 100 over the next six months, will occur primarily in the US, where Genomic Health believes its breast cancer test still has plenty of room to grow. Popovits estimated that only around 50 percent of eligible patients are being tested with Oncotype DX in the US.

Company officials noted during the breakout session that the firm will have to add further salespeople to call on urologists when it launches the prostate cancer test.

The firm also today said that it will "accelerate" a program to evaluate the use of next-generation sequencing for identifying genes for its tests. Popovits said during her presentation that a recent study using RNA-seq not only re-discovered the genes used in Oncotype DX but also found 2,000 more genes that the firm will evaluate for possible inclusion in future tests.

The company also noted that it is investing in its informatics infrastructure to support a cloud-based system for storage and analysis of large genomic data sets.

Genomic Health expects to report full-year 2011 revenues of around $205 million, at the mid-way point of its previous guidance of $200 million to $210 million.