Grail, which seeks to develop liquid biopsies to catch cancer early, has agreed to merge with Hong Kong-based Cirina. The deal will grant Grail an entry into Asian markets. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Grail spun out of Illumina in January, when it announced its goal of raising $1 billion in Series B financing. In March, it bagged $900 million in the financing’s first close, which it said would support large-scale clinical trials involving hundreds of thousands of patients. The company previously raised $100 million in its Series A round, from the likes of Bill Gates and Bezos Expeditions.
Illumina transferred its liquid biopsy assets to Grail in January 2016. While liquid biopsy is already used to predict cancer patients’ drug response and guide their treatment, Grail wants to use it to detect the disease early. The company is focusing on tracking DNA shed by tumors that circulates in the blood.
Cirina, which has R&D teams in Hong Kong and San Francisco, shares Grail’s mission. The company was cofounded by Dennis Lo, the first scientist to learn of the presence of fetal DNA in a mother’s blood plasma. Lo’s research includes using liquid biopsy to detect certain cancers.
“Dennis Lo is one of the pre-eminent scientists in the field of plasma nucleic acids and genomics,” said Grail CEO Jeff Huber, in the statement.
“By combining our scientific expertise and resources, we will greatly enhance our ability to achieve our goal of reducing global cancer mortality through the early detection of cancer,” he said.
The merger will allow Grail to develop and, if successful, commercialize liquid biopsy tests for cancer in Asian and Western markets, according to the statement.
Under the deal, Lo will join Grail’s scientific advisory board, while Cirina CEO Maneesh Jain, will also join the Grail team. Cirina will operate as a subsidiary of Grail, according to the statement.