Grail raises over $900 million to finance development of blood tests for early cancer detection

Grail announced Wednesday that it raised over $900 million through the first close of its previously announced Series B financing, which is expected to eventually exceed $1 billion. The company noted that Johnson & Johnson Innovation was the largest investor in the financing round that also included investment from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Merck & Co. and Varian Medical Systems.

According to Grail, the funds will be used for "continued product development and validation of blood tests for early-stage cancer detection, including the previously announced Circulating Cell-free Genome Atlas (CCGA) study and other large-scale clinical trials."

Ken Drazan, Grail's chief business officer, remarked that "this cadre of…investors is a testament to their shared belief in our goal to reduce global cancer mortality through early detection." He added that "the financing includes a broad spectrum of pharmaceutical and technology companies who, in the second close, will be joined by successful institutional investors in the life science space." Grail said it plans to close the remainder of the Series B investment prior to the end of the first quarter.

Grail added that some of the funds were used to repurchase a portion of Illumina's stake in the company, with the latter now owning just less than 20 percent. In January 2016, Illumina announced the formation of Grail, noting at the time that the spin-out company would be majority owned by Illumina and use its sequencing technology.

Commenting on the news, Bristol-Myers Squibb said that as an investor it will gain early access to Grail's clinical trial databases "that may serve as a rich resource for understanding tumour genomics." The drugmaker added that the companies have agreed "to principal terms of a research collaboration that would enable Bristol-Myers Squibb to examine its clinical data using Grail's analytic tools" to inform R&D decisions, "guide strategies to advance point of care companion diagnostics and potentially improve selection, care and management of patients through more targeted treatments."

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