Grail courts new backers, loses 2 top executives: reports

Grail used its $900 million series B haul to bankroll large-scale clinical trials and to reduce Illumina's stake to 20%.

Illumina spinout Grail is looking for new funding just months after raising a whopping $900 million in its series B round, and a pair of high-level executives has left.

Grail made headlines in 2016 when it bagged $100 million in series A financing—virtually unheard of in biotech and medtech. In January, the company revealed plans to raise $1 billion in its next round. It followed through in March, pulling in $900 million slated for large-scale clinical trials and to buy back some of Illumina’s stake.

But now, CNBC reports, Grail has approached Softbank and Mubadala, Abu Dhabi's $125 billion sovereign fund.


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In addition to buying back enough of Illumina’s shares to cut its ownership to 20%, Grail merged with Hong Kong’s Cirina. The deal was worth more than $100 million, according to CNBC.

Related: FierceMedicalDevices’ 2016 Fierce 15Grail

As for Grail’s leadership, CEO Jeff Huber stepped down in August, and now Franz Och, head of data science and Mark Lee, head of clinical development and medical affairs have also said adieu, sources told BuzzFeed News.

Franz Och, who left his post at the genome-sequencing outfit Human Longevity last year to join Grail, left in October, sources said. And Mark Lee, who arrived in January, has moved on to Genentech, according to his LinkedIn profile. They did not comment on their departures to BuzzFeed.

Illumina transferred its liquid biopsy assets to Grail in January last year. While liquid biopsy is typically used to guide cancer treatment, Grail’s mission is to use the technology to catch cancer early, when it is at its most treatable. Freenome, which seeks to do the same, recently increased its series A haul from $65 million to $72 million.

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