Illumina spinout Grail is seeking to raise $1.7 billion for large-scale clinical trial: sources

Grail, a spinout company of the DNA-sequencing giant Illumina, has a very bold mission: to develop a blood-based screening test for cancer. 

The company is now seeking to raise $1.7 billion, say three sources familiar with the matter, to fund a large-scale clinical trial in the United Kingdom involving 500,000 people. One person familiar says the buy-in for the round is set at a $200 million-minimum, and the company has also received a term sheet from an investor in Asia. Initially, the company had sought to raise $1 billion. 

Grail’s CEO, Jeff Huber, is a former Google executive.

The underlying science is nothing new: We know that dying fragments of tumor cells circulate in the patient’s blood stream. Companies like Guardant Health will take a blood sample from a patient with late-stage cancer to monitor how they’re responding to treatment. But it’s never been applied to early-stage cancer detection, a far more challenging prospect. Grail is convinced it can do it through an ultra-deep sequencing approach.

The company declined to comment. This post has been updated with more details.