Backed by Amazon and Big Names Like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene and Merck & Co., Bay Area's GRAIL Banks $900 Million

Published: Mar 03, 2017

Backed by Amazon and Big Names Like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene and Merck & Co., Bay Area's GRAIL Banks $900 Million March 2, 2017
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

MENLO PARK, Calif. – Grail Inc., a company focused on using diagnostics to develop early-stage cancer detection, just bagged $900 million in Series B financing.

The company, helmed by Jeff Huber, a widower whose wife died from cancer, will use the proceeds to continue product development and validation of blood tests for early-stage cancer detection, including the previously announced Circulating Cell-free Genome Atlas study, the company said. The CCGA study will characterize the landscape of cell-free DNA profiles in individuals with cancer and in healthy non-cancer participants using GRAIL’s high-intensity (ultra-broad and ultra-deep) sequencing approach, which is based on technology from parent company Illumina.

Grail’s financing was backed by multiple well-known investors, including ARCH Venture Partners and Johnson & Johnson Innovation , Amazon , Bristol-Myers Squibb , Celgene , McKesson Ventures, Merck , Tencent Holdings Limited and Varian Medical Systems, Inc. Ken Drazan, Grail’s chief business officer, said the “cadre of world-class investors” is a strong indication of “their shared belief in our goal to reduce global cancer mortality through early detection.” Some of the proceeds were used to repurchase a portion of Illumina ’s stake in Grail. Illumina now owns slightly less than 20 percent of the company, Grail said in its announcement. In January, Grail announced that it was seeking $1 billion in financing. Grail could still hit that mark. In its announcement of the $900 million raised, Grail said it intends to close the remainder of the Series B investment prior to the end of the first quarter of 2017 from qualified investors.

“We envision a global community that benefits from early-stage cancer detection where fewer individuals face the anguish of late-stage diagnosis and devastating outcomes,” Huber said in a statement. “I believe that Grail’s approach leveraging high-intensity sequencing, population-scale clinical studies, and state of the art Computer Science and Data Science is unparalleled in the field of cancer detection. Our team made tremendous progress in 2016 and I look forward to additional clinical and strategic milestones.”

Grail launched in January 2016 with the idea of creating a “pan-cancer” screening test able to diagnose cancer at an early stage prior to symptoms. The technology measures circulating nucleic acids in blood, which Huber said provides a greater opportunity in detecting cancers early as opposed to searching for cancer biomarkers. Finding cancer biomarkers is complicated due to the complexity of cancer cells, which can rapidly mutate.

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