IN THE NEWS:
Grail and Cirina Announce Merger –
PARTNERSHIP COULD PAVE THE WAY FOR HUGE ADVANCEMENTS IN THE METHODS USED FOR THE EARLY DETECTION OF CANCER
June 5, 2017
GRAIL AND CIRINA ANNOUNCE MERGER with goal of developing cost effective blood-testing methods for the Early Detection of Cancer
Grail and Cirina, two companies with the goal of early cancer detection, have announced plans to merge. The May 31, 2017, announcement was made that Cirina will become a subsidiary of Grail. This news means that the two relatively new cancer research organizations can consolidate their resources and focus into a joint research effort that may pave the way for huge advancements in the early detection of cancer.
Both Grail and Cirina have only been in operation for less than 5 years, and both companies are new teams in the cancer diagnostic research and development industry. While the teams may be new to the league, both companies are comprised of team members that have playing in the major leagues of genomics research before. These players bring with the dedication that has provides both companies with stability and creditability, that has secured funding sources, in turn allowing this merger effort to go forward.
Grail, based in California, is a life sciences company that focuses on the development and validation of cancer-detecting blood tests that allow for the early detection of cancer. The CEO of Grail, Jeff Huber, is a former GoogleX executive and leader in the field of Big Data and its relationship to science and technology took leadership of the company at its on-set in 2016, shortly after his wife died from cancer.
The birth of Grail occurred in mid-2016, as a spin off from Illumina, a leading genomics research DNA sequencing firm. The spin-off of the company was made possible following a start-up investment of more than $100 million from Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Google, and others.[i]
Grail has had a successful first year. In March 2017, the company announced that it had raised an additional $900 million from a second round of investors. With major funding led by ARCH Venture Partners and includes Amazon, Bezos Expeditions, Bill Gates, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, GV, Illumina, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Merck, McKesson Ventures, Sutter Hill Ventures, Tencent, Varian Medical Systems, and other financial partners.[ii]
US-based Grail has been infused with a $900 million dollar shot of investment funds at its disposal, the partnership with Hong Kong-based Cirina will further expand both facilities research and development abilities, as well as expand the depth of both companies knowledge, with the ultimate goal of making significate advancements in the early detection of cancer through blood testing.
An industry leader also heads Cirina, and much like Grail, is composed of a well-rounded group of researchers. Cirina founded in 2014 at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The company’s co-founder, Dennis Lo, is a trailblazer in the study of plasma nucleic acid, which is the information, or identifying markers found in DNA. DNA is the genetic code that is uniquely specific to each individual, and is considered the blueprint to all of the things that makes us, us.
As a researcher Lo was the first person to discover the presence of fetal DNA in a pregnant mother’s blood-plasma, a discovery that showed the cells of a developing fetus cross the placental and blood-brain barriers and transfer from the child to the during pregnancy.[iii] In the years following his discovery, the field of genomics and DNA sequencing has continued to grow. Many new discoveries related to DNA and human genetics have followed Lo’s findings, including promising research related to how to detect the presences of cancer markers in the human body by utilizing blood-plasma testing, a process that has been successful in the identification of diseases, and various types of cancer, including lung, colon, and breast.[iv]