Illumina has announced the launch of its spin-off Grail, a company dedicated to implement cancer screenings based on blood tests. Grail will use Illumina’s sequencing technology to detect several cancer types by checking the nucleic acids in the blood. The new test would allow early cancer detection in asymptomatic people, dramatically reducing cancer-related death by treating individuals at early, manageable stages of the disease.
Grail has received $100 million from Illumina and the venture capital provider ARCH Venture Partners, and has also obtained investments by Amazon’s Jezz Bezos, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Sutter Hill Ventures.
Illumina’s participation is vital for Grail’s project: it can provide deep sequencing technology at affordable cost, with the sensitivity and specificity needed for the screening tests.
The holy grail: a biomarker for early cancer detection
The name of the company refers to the oncologists’ quest for a trustworthy biomarker that indicates the presence of cancer at its early stages. Grail’s method reliability is based on the direct measurement of circulating nucleic acids generated by cancer cells.
Grail receives input from top medical and policy advisors, like industry and cancer experts from Memorial Sloan Kettering, the American Association of Cancer Research or the Anderson Cancer Center, among others. The company is currently recruiting a CEO.