Two Top Ex-Google Scientists Have Left A $1 Billion Cancer Startup

The Silicon Valley cancer-detection startup Grail, which has raised $1 billion, recently lost two top executives — the latest in a handful of departures, BuzzFeed News has learned.

Franz Och, Grail’s head of data science, left in October, two people with knowledge of the company told BuzzFeed News. Before joining in September 2016, Och was the chief data scientist at Human Longevity, a genome-sequencing startup, as well as before which, he was the chief architect of Google Translate.

as well as Mark Lee, who joined in January as head of clinical development as well as medical affairs, left in September, according to his LinkedIn profile. Lee was previously a top scientist at Verily, Alphabet’s experimental biotech division. He can be today at the pharmaceutical giant Roche.

These departures were previously unreported. the idea’s not clear why Och as well as Lee left. They did not return requests for comment.

“We recently underwent a reorganization to focus on nearer-term, unanticipated product opportunities by our R&D organization,” Grail spokesperson Charlotte Arnold told BuzzFeed News by email when reached for comment. She said the company could soon announce brand new hires as well as updates on its clinical trials.

Och as well as Lee left after CEO Jeff Huber, an ex–senior Google executive, stepped down in August in an executive shuffle which occurred with little public explanation. Though he kept a board seat, he was replaced by chairman Bill Rastetter. as well as as Axios reported Monday, Vikram Bajaj, Grail’s head of precision medicine as well as translational science — as well as the former cofounder of Verily — recently left for a private equity firm.

Bajaj as well as Och have joined Grail’s scientific advisory board, Arnold said.

Grail can be among a handful of biotech startups racing to develop blood tests which can detect early signs of cancer — as well as to get there first, the idea raised an eye-popping $900 million in March, on top of $100 million in 2016. the idea’s a spinout of the DNA-sequencing behemoth Illumina.

Its funders include tech billionaires Jeff Bezos as well as Bill Gates; internet companies like Amazon as well as Tencent; high-profile venture capital firms like ARCH Venture Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures, as well as GV (formerly known as Google Ventures); as well as pharma companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, as well as Merck.

One of its competitors can be Freenome, which raised $65 million inside spring by investors like Andreessen Horowitz as well as Verily. The latter has also given Freenome lab space. Yet another rival, Guardant Health, has raised a total of $550 million.

although developing an accurate “liquid biopsy” test, which detects tumor DNA in blood, can be highly difficult. as well as the companies racing to develop the idea have revealed little about the science behind their visions.

Grail, at least, published a study in August inside brand new England Journal of Medicine. The study followed about 20,000 men in Hong Kong, as well as found which a type of throat cancer could be detected in a blood test as well as treated early. The scientist in charge of This specific study merged his startup, Cirina, with Grail earlier This specific year.

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