A blood test for cancer is going to be big business
A blood test for cancer is going to be big business. That’s the bet behind the merger of two companies. Grail and Cirina, that are pursuing a “liquid biopsy”—the ability to detect cancer in its earliest stages based on DNA floating in someone’s bloodstream. Grail had already raised nearly $1 billion in funding. While the smaller Cirina boasts Dennis Lo as a founder, who has been hot on the trail of detecting liver and nasopharyngeal cancers this way. But there’s a lot of interest in liquid biopsies right now, and the new company has plenty of competition.
What is liquid biopsy?
GRAIL’s mission is to detect cancer early, when it can be cured. Grail founded by Jeff Huber. Jeff Huber lost his wife Laura to cancer last fall. A loss made even more devastating by the knowledge he had gained through a mid-career shift into life sciences at Google, and board work with the gene sequencing pioneer Illumina. Just as his wife’s cancer was metastasizing beyond the reach of science. Huber was working with the Illumina board to spin out a company that promised to detect and ultimately provide the tools to beat cancer before it could spread throughout a person’s body.
After his wife’s death, Huber became CEO of the newly spun-out company. Dubbed Grail, it is backed by more than $100 million from Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Google, and others. Grail’s unofficial debut came via a moving commencement speech, “Find A Better Way,” that Huber gave at his alma mater in May.
Cirina co-founder is Dennis Lo, DM, DPhil. In 2014, Dr. Lo and Decheng Capital co-founded Cirina to develop products to detect cancer at the earliest stages. Later, they recruited Maneesh Jain as CEO to execute on this mission.
In May 2017, GRAIL and Cirina announced they have entered a definitive agreement to merge. In the press release chief executive officer of GRAIL, Jeff Huber said:
“Dennis Lo is one of the pre-eminent scientists in the field of plasma nucleic acids and genomics,”. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work alongside Dennis and his team at Cirina, and also to collaborate with his colleagues Rossa Chiu and Allen Chan at CUHK. By combining our scientific expertise and resources, we will greatly enhance our ability to achieve our goal of reducing global cancer mortality through the early detection of cancer.”
Co-founder of Cirina, Dennis Lo Said also:
“I have dedicated my career to unlocking the science of circulating DNA to advance our knowledge of human biology and disease,”. “I am looking forward to continuing the work we have started at Cirina with the team at GRAIL to make the promise of early cancer detection a global reality.”