GRAIL Grabs $300 Million Ahead of Possible IPO on Hong Kong Exchange


With a new chief executive officer on board, GRAIL, Inc. has secured a whopping $300 million in an oversubscribed Series C financing round led by multiple Chinese investment groups.

The support from the Chinese groups comes as the Bay Area company is building capabilities in Asia to develop tests for the early detection of cancers prevalent in the region. GRAIL has a collaborative arrangement with The Chinese University of Hong Kong and intends to launch a screening test for the early detection of nasopharyngeal cancer this year in the area.

Last year GRAIL also merged with Hong Kong-based Cirina, Ltd., a privately-held company also focused on early cancer screening technology. That move gave the company a firm toehold in Asia, where it is rumored to be flirting with an initial public offering on the Hong Kong Exchange. China BioToday said GRAIL could take advantage of new rules on the exchange that allow companies to IPO even if they aren't profitable.

The latest financing round was led by Hong Kong-based Ally Bridge Group. Other participants include Hillhouse Capital Group, 6 Dimensions Capital Blue Pool Capital, China Merchant Securities International, CRF Investment, HuangPu River Capital (HPR), ICBC International, Sequoia Capital China, and WuXi NextCODE.

Ken Drazen, president of GRAIL, said the company is fortunate to partner with the international investors who “share our vision of delivering early detection products to people globally.”

“Many of our new investors have a focus in Asia, which we believe is a natural fit as we plan to grow our capabilities and operations in the region, following the planned launch of our first product for early detection of nasopharyngeal cancer in Hong Kong this year,” Drazen added in a statement.

Frank Yu, founder and CEO of Ally Bridge Group, touted the GRAIL programs. He said his company’s significant investment in GRAIL aligns with Ally’s “strong focus” on financing innovative life science technologies.

China and Asia are playing an increasingly important role in oncology programming for biotech companies. Not only is the country seen as a lucrative market for drugs, particularly oncology medicines, entities within the country are making heavy investments in the global biotech industry. Several companies, including Eli Lilly, have been developing partnerships with Chinese firms in order to secure a toehold in the lucrative markets.

In the two years since GRAIL launched with a dream of developing a “pan-cancer” screening test, the company has raised more than $1.5 billion in three rounds of equity financing. GRAIL said the latest funding will support its ongoing development and validation of products for the early detection of cancer. GRAIL’s technology measures circulating nucleic acids in blood, which is believed to provide a greater opportunity in detecting cancers early as opposed to searching for cancer biomarkers. The company initiated two screening studies, the Circulating Cell-free Genome Atlas (CCGA) Study and the STRIVE study.

“GRAIL has continued to execute at a rapid pace towards its goal of saving lives through early detection of cancer. We have enrolled more than 73,000 participants in our population-scale clinical studies, CCGA and STRIVE, and are on-track to complete enrollment in both studies this year,” said Jennifer Cook, GRAIL’s CEO. “We recently reported data supporting the potential for development of a highly specific and sensitive blood test, and are now continuing our development programs to optimize and validate a product for early detection of multiple cancer types.” 

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