Cancer blood test maker Grail files for Nasdaq IPO, eyes 2021 commercial launch

Grail, the company on a quest to spot cancers early with a simple blood test, is finally going public after raising nearly $2 billion in funding for its research since 2016.

Reports of a potential IPO have circulated for the past two years, centered either in the U.S. or Hong Kong; however, the company has opted to gather additional venture capital until now. Today, Grail announced it would list on the Nasdaq under the ticker "GRAL."

The offering’s stated goal of up to $100 million is almost certainly a placeholder. The former Fierce 15 winner—spun out from Illumina and backed by billionaires Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, among many others—has shown an uncanny ability to raise money in support of its mammoth clinical program enrolling 115,000 participants. Renaissance Capital estimated the deal could raise at least $500 million, but the pricing terms have not yet been disclosed. 

Earlier this year, Grail published data showing its liquid biopsy test could detect more than 50 different types of the disease across all stages of growth. In addition, using a single blood sample, the test could identify the specific organ where the tumor was growing 93% of the time.

Shortly thereafter, the company closed its fourth nine-digit-plus funding round, raising $390 million in new investments from two Canadian national pension boards plus two undisclosed backers and returning investors.

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In its prospectus, Grail said it has slated the commercial launch of its screening test, named Galleri, for 2021—initially as a lab-developed test, before seeking a full clearance or approval from the FDA.

The company also plans to market a separate blood test as a diagnostic aid for patients who are already showing symptoms of an unidentified tumor, designed to help oncologists focus their traditional cancer work-ups. 

That product, teased at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in April, is set to make its debut after Galleri in the second half of next year. Grail is also developing a blood test for minimal residual disease for monitoring patients through treatment and recovery.

Galleri’s launch is tied to additional validation work being completed through Grail’s 6,200-person Pathfinder study, which suspended enrollment and sample processing in the second quarter of this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, some but not all of the study’s sites have resumed their enrollment efforts, according to the company’s prospectus.