Grail’s third VC round brings funding total to $1.5B

Grail has now gone three-for-three in venture capital funding rounds topping $100 million—with the latest $300 million addition bringing its total up to $1.5 billion raised since 2016.

The money will help support the massive-scale clinical trials being pursued by the company as it develops DNA-based blood tests for the early detection of cancer.

“We have enrolled more than 73,000 participants in our population-scale clinical studies, CCGA and STRIVE, and are on-track to complete enrollment in both studies this year,” said Grail CEO Jennifer Cook.

The company’s two observational, longitudinal studies are designed to characterize the genomic landscape of cancer-defining cell-free nucleic acid profiles, and to develop and validate blood tests for the early detection of multiple cancer types.

The Circulating Cell-free Genome Atlas (CCGA) study plans to enroll more than 15,000 people with and without cancer, while STRIVE looks to enroll 120,000 women at the time of their mammogram, and track the ability to detect asymptomatic breast cancer over at least five years.

The oversubscribed series C financing round was led by Ally Bridge Group, and co-led by Hillhouse Capital Group and 6 Dimensions Capital. Other investors included Blue Pool Capital, China Merchant Securities International, CRF Investment, HuangPu River Capital, ICBC International, Sequoia Capital China and WuXi NextCODE, Grail said in a statement.

Previous investors include Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, as well as Tencent Holdings, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Johnson & Johnson and Merck. Grail and its liquid biopsy work were spun off from Illumina with $100 million in series A financing in January 2016. A series B round in March 2017 brought in more than $900 million.

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“Many of our new investors have a focus in Asia, which we believe is a natural fit as we plan to grow our capabilities and operations in the region, following the planned launch of our first product for early detection of nasopharyngeal cancer in Hong Kong this year,” said Ken Drazan, president of the Menlo Park, California-based Grail.

According to reports, Grail is planning an initial public offering in Hong Kong, with the hope of raising at least $500 million and attract more biotech listings in the Asian market. Subsequent reports described plans to raise another billion dollars before the IPO.

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Ally Bridge’s investment in Grail represents “the most strategic transaction” for the firm since its $3.3 billion take-private of Wuxi Pharmatech from the New York Stock Exchange in 2015, Ally Bridge Founder and CEO Frank Yu said in a statement. The deal also serves as a landmark for a joint venture announced in January between Ally Bridge and Lifetech Scientific, a medtech company based in China.

Last month, Grail reported data from three prototype genome sequencing assays that it said demonstrated the feasibility of a blood test that could detect multiple types of cancer early with 99% specificity.