Tencent-backed Grail Inc, a US- and Hong Kong-based healthcare firm that seeks to detect cancer at its curable stage, has raised $300 million in an oversubscribed Series C financing round joined by Chinese investors, including venture capital firm Sequoia Capital China.
The financing, led by Ally Bridge Group and co-led by Hillhouse Capital Group and 6 Dimensions, will be used to support the company’s ongoing development and validation of products for early detection of cancer, Grail said.
Blue Pool Capital, China Merchants Securities International, CRF Investment, HuangPu river Capital, ICBC International, and WuXi NextCODE also participated in the oversubscribed Series C round.
Grail’s early backers include Tencent Holdings Ltd., China’s biggest internet company, Bill Gates, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. A Bloomberg report said the company is boosting growth ahead of a planned initial public offering in Hong Kong.
Grail has already raised more than $1.5 billion in three rounds of financing since early 2016.
“Diagnosing cancer early results in significantly higher survival rates compared to late-stage diagnosis. However, effective screening only exists for a few cancer types, and most cancer is detected in later stages, when survival rates are much lower,” the company said on its website.
Grail aims to develop a blood test to detect cancer early before symptoms appear. To achieve this, the company said it will build “intelligent models to surface clinically actionable insights from vast amounts of tumor genome data obtained through high-intensity sequencing”.
The firm said it has initiated two large-scale studies to date, which are designed to characterize the landscape of cancer-defining cell-free nucleic acid profiles, and to develop and validate blood tests for the early detection of multiple cancer types.
Jennifer Cook, Chief Executive Officer of Grail, said the company has enrolled more than 73,000 participants in its population-scale clinical studies.
“We recently reported data supporting the potential for development of a highly specific and sensitive blood test, and are now continuing our development programs to optimize and validate a product for early detection of multiple cancer types,” she said.
Grail President Ken Drazan said many of the healthcare firm’s investors have a focus in Asia, which he said is a natural fit as Grail plans to expand in the region following the planned launch of its first product for early detection of nasopharyngeal cancer, a rare type of head and neck cancer, in Hong Kong this year.
Prices of common drugs, including cancer drugs, in China are expected to drop by at least 20 per cent as the government has exempted import tariff on all common drugs and imported traditional Chinese medicine.
According to the national cancer institute, the market for antineoplastic drugs, used to fight tumours, in China exceeds Rmb120 billion (about $19.1 billion).