Data expert Franz Och joins Illumina's Grail cancer screening venture

Google Translate creator Franz Och will join Illumina-founded cancer screening company Grail, leaving his post as chief data scientist at Human Longevity, according to a report from Forbes.

Grail is Illumina’s $100 million venture looking to apply DNA sequencing to the fight against cancer. By analyzing blood samples of healthy people, the company hopes to detect early malignancies. With the challenges associated, Och could play an integral role in using the vast amount of data to their advantage.

The German computer scientist has been known as an expert in machine translation, language processing and machine learning. After a very successful 10 years at Google, Och joined J. Craig Venter’s Human Longevity in 2014 to sort through biological data.


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Grail, which got its original funding from Arch Venture Partners, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, also has a connection to Google through former Google senior vice president Jeff Huber, who is the company’s CEO.

Forbes quotes Venter, regarding Och: “One of the biggest challenges in medicine and science today and thus, one of HLI’s biggest challenges, is how to interpret the vast amount of biological data we are generating from sequencing individual genomes. To make these data interpretable and clinically actionable will require new computational tools. Franz brings not only unquestionable talent in this area, but also a fresh perspective and a creative mind to tackle what has never before been attempted.”

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