Illumina acquires ML-powered cancer detection firm Grail

By William Smith
Biotechnology giant Illumina has announced it is to acquire early cancer detection firm Grail...

Biotechnology giant Illumina has announced it is to acquire early cancer detection firm Grail.

The Silicon Valley-based company, founded in 2016, focuses on developing tests to detect multiple different types of cancer at an early stage - when successful treatment is much more likely.

The test involves taking a blood sample, which is then analysed via machine learning and data science techniques, alongside a database of cancer signatures. Grail’s Galleri platform is expected to launch commercially in 2021, with prior versions of the technology capable of detecting over 50 types of cancer and identify where in the body they are located

In a press release, Hans Bishop, Chief Executive Officer of Grail, said: “Cancer is one of society’s most significant challenges, with most cancer being detected too late. We believe multi-cancer early detection technology could address a tremendous unmet need and reduce the cancer burden worldwide. Combining forces with Illumina enables broader and faster adoption of Grail’s innovative, multi-cancer early detection blood test, enhancing patient access and expanding global reach.”

Grail was spun-out of Illumina, and went on to attract $2bn of investment across four funding rounds before being brought back into Illumina’s orbit. The deal, which has entered into a definitive agreement, involves cash and stock considerations totalling $8bn. 

Illumina gave its rationale for the purchase as tapping into the growing oncology market, as well as dovetailing with Illumina’s global scale to allow delivery of cancer tests to more patients, more quickly.

Francis deSouza, Illumina’s President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “Over the last four years, Grail’s talented team has made exceptional progress in developing the technology and clinical data required to launch the Galleri multi-cancer screening test. Galleri is among the most promising new tools in the fight against cancer, and we are thrilled to welcome Grail back to Illumina to help transform cancer care using genomics and our NGS platform.”

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