One of the world’s most valuable biotechnology startup companies may make its initial public offering in the US instead of Hong Kong, according to a news report.
Citing unnamed sources, Bloomberg reported Tuesday that cancer diagnostics firm Grail was mulling a US listing as early as next year, despite reporting in February that the company was considering raising $500 million to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The company – which has operations in Hong Kong as well as Menlo Park, California – declined to comment in response to inquiries from Bloomberg. One of the sources said that volatility in the Hong Kong market and lackluster performance by health companies that made IPOs there had led Grail to reconsider a Hong Kong listing and delay it until at least next year.
Grail has raised $1.5 billion since 2016, making it one of the top biotechnology unicorns. In May, it raised $300 million in a Series C funding round, primarily from Chinese investment firms. Prior to that, in March 2017, it raised $900 million in the first close of its Series B funding round, led by ARCH Venture Partners. Next-generation sequencing diagnostics firm Illumina announced the formation of Grail in January 2016, with a $100 million Series A round led by Illumina and ARCH, with participation from Sutter Hill Ventures and the investment funds of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft’s Bill Gates.
Grail presented data in June 2018 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago from the 1,627-subject Circulating Cell-free Genome Atlas study, which included 878 cancer patients and 749 participants with no cancer diagnosis who were given three prototype sequencing assays. Results of the study showed that Grail’s cfDNA whole genome bisulfite sequencing test had the highest sensitivity and detected multiple solid tumor and blood cancers with high specificity. This included lethal, unscreened cancers where shifts between stages can affect mortality.
The company is using next-generation sequencing to develop blood tests for early detection of cancers in patients who do not have symptoms or a diagnosis. However, in an article earlier this year, a spokesperson distinguished Grail’s approach from liquid biopsy, in which patients who already have a cancer diagnosis have their tumors sequenced using a blood sample in order to guide treatment or monitor for disease progression.
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