Cancer screening start-up edges closer to $1bn funding round

2 Mar 2017

Cancer cells. Image: ChWeiss/Shutterstock

Grail, a US start-up developing a screening test for cancer, has secured $900m in Series B funding, with a target of $1bn likely to follow soon.

Life sciences is a notoriously expensive industry, especially for start-ups, with significant investment in both finance and time required to get most projects, products or services off the ground.

Grail developing a screen for cancer is one such costly approach. And so, at the start of the year, the company – a spin-out from gene-sequencing giant Illumina – sought $1bn in financing.

$900m has been secured already, with Amazon, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, McKesson Ventures, Merck, Tencent Holdings Limited and Varian Medical Systems joining Johnson & Johnson Innovation as new investors.

“This cadre of world-class investors is a testament to their shared belief in our goal to reduce global cancer mortality through early detection,” said Grail executive Ken Drazan.

Grail is developing a process that uses Illumina’s high-intensity genome-sequencing machines, clinical studies and data science to try and catch the early stages of cancer.

Life sciences investors have yet to be included, which the company hopes will bring the total round of funding well into the landmark $1bn figure.

Even if it doesn’t reach such a number, this represents the largest funding round ever for a medical diagnostics company, according to Business Insider.

It has been a crazy few weeks in funding for medtech firms, with Freenome, a company working on a similar service, raising $65m early this week.

Elsewhere, Atlantic Therapeutics raised €15m in funding through Seroba Life Sciences and Earlybird Venture Capital, as well as loan capital from Silicon Valley Bank.

The company develops devices for non-invasive pelvic floor strengthening as well as nerve stimulation products.

Last month, OncoMark, a UCD-based start-up looking at cancer treatment, raised €2.1m to help prepare its innovative breast cancer diagnostic test for a 2018 release.

OncoMark develops panels of cancer biomarkers that can help medical professionals to decide on treatments, as well as tailor patient management.

Elsewhere, Orreco, a sports and data science company based in Ireland, raised $2m in funding through Silicon Valley-based firm True Ventures.

Orreco uses machine learning and data analytics to investigate and monitor injuries experienced by sportspeople.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic