• Wed. Sep 23rd, 2020

Dimancherouge

Technology

Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos-backed cancer detection company Grail, led by ex-Juno CEO, files for IPO

Grail CEO Hans Bishop at the 2016 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

Cancer detection startup Grail today filed to go public as the Silicon Valley biotech aims to raise more funding for its blood test.

The company’s backers include Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos; both invested in a $100 million Series A round four years ago. Total funding is now north of $1.9 billion, including a $390 million Series D round in May.

Grail does not have revenue or a commercially-available product. That reflects the traditional life cycle of biotech companies, which commonly invest in research and development for years before bringing products to market. It reported a $136.4 million loss in the first half of this year, up from $117.2 million a year ago.

Renaissance Capital estimates Grail could raise up to $500 million.

In its IPO filing, Grail said its multi-cancer early detection test, Galleri, will commercially launch in 2021 as a laboratory-developed test. It said the test “can lead to a dramatic increase in early cancer diagnosis.”

“We have built a multi-disciplinary organization of scientists, engineers, and physicians and we are using the power of next-generation sequencing (NGS), population-scale clinical studies, and state-of-the-art computer science and data science to overcome one of medicine’s greatest challenges,” the company said in the filing. “Using our platform technology, we have developed a multi-cancer early detection blood test that has demonstrated in clinical studies the ability to detect more than 50 types of cancer, across all stages, and localize the cancer signal with a high degree of accuracy, from a single blood draw.”

Competitors include Thrive Earlier Detection, which raised a $257 million round in July, and others such as Guardant Health and Exact Sciences.

Bezos and Vulcan Capital, the firm founded by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, are backers of a similar Seattle startup called Nautilus Biotechnology that raised $76 million in May.

Founded in 2015, Grail is led by Hans Bishop, the former CEO of Juno Therapeutics, a Seattle biotech startup also backed by Bezos that went public in 2014 and was sold to Celgene four years later for $9 billion.

Bishop, who took over at Grail in 2019, also continues to serve as the executive chair of the board of directors at Sana, a secretive Seattle biotech startup led by former Juno CFO Steve Harr. Sana just raised more than $700 million — one of the largest venture financing deals in the life sciences industry and one of the biggest rounds on record in Seattle.

ARCH Ventures Partners, a life sciences and biotech firm with an office in Seattle, is also an investor in Grail with a 9.5% stake. Grail spun out of DNA sequencing machine maker Illumina, which owns the most shares with a 14.6% stake.

The market for biotech IPOs is red-hot this year. Tech IPOs are also on the rise despite the ongoing economic crisis. Five software startups filed for an IPO on a single day alone last month. Many companies have traded higher since debuting on the public markets over the past several months.

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