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Barry Cohen
Barry Cohen
Articles (224) 

Renaissance Capital Expects Grail IPO to Raise $500 Million

Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos backed San Diego medtech company developing tests to identify cancer in early stages

September 10, 2020

The term "holy grail" is often used to denote an elusive object or goal that is sought after for its great significance. A San Diego-based medical technology company is confident it has achieved its own holy grail, a blood test that could be the key to detecting cancers at an early stage, when treatment can be life-saving.

Appropriately, the company is named Grail Inc., and investors will have the opportunity to share in its success now that it has announced it is going public. The company is likely to blow past its stated goal to raise $100 million when it starts trading, according to an article in FierceBiotech. The pricing terms have yet to be disclosed, but Renaissance Capital estimated the deal could raise at least $500 million. Grail will be listed on the Nasdaq under the ticker "GRAL."

Grail's potentially breakthrough technology is a liquid biopsy test that could detect more than 50 different types of the disease across all stages of growth, according to study results released earlier this year. Incredibly, the test was able to pinpoint the specific organ where the tumor was growing 93% of the time—using just a single blood sample.

The magnitude of a test with that capability can't be overstated. "Most cancers are diagnosed at stage 3 or 4," Grail CEO Jeff Huber said. "If we can detect cancer at stage 1 or stage 2 the outcomes are generally very good—80% to 90% of people can be cured."

That opinion was echoed by researcher Kun Zhang, a professor of bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego. Having a "convenient and quick" blood test that can catch cancers earlier could give people more treatment options, and hopefully improve their survival odds, Zhang said in an article on WebMD.

Grail's technology is far more complex than liquid biopsies, which are of somewhat limited value in guiding cancer treatment. The company uses something called "ultradeep sequencing," an approach Huber says is 10 times greater than what any other company is doing in terms of breadth.

Grail already has many believers. Since 2016—when the company was spun out from Illumina Inc. (ILMN)—it has raised nearly $2 billion to fund research. The list of investors includes many heavy hitters, such as Bill Gates (Trades, Portfolio) and Jeff Bezos.

In its prospectus, Grail said it has scheduled the commercial launch of its screening test, named Galleri, for 2021. It will be used as a lab test first while the company seeks full clearance or approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The company will also introduce a separate blood test as a diagnostic indicator for patients who are already demonstrating symptoms of an unidentified tumor. That product is likely to hit the market in the second half of 2021. The company is also working on a blood test for monitoring cancer patients through treatment and recovery.

Disclosure: The author has no position in Grail.

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About the author:

Barry Cohen
Barry Cohen has nearly 40 years experience in communications and marketing, the majority in senior positions at large international health care companies, including Abbott Laboratories and Bayer Inc.

He has contributed to a number of financial websites, writing primarily about the stocks of health care companies.

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