Startups, Health IT, Diagnostics, Health Tech

Funding roundup: GRAIL raises $390M for cancer liquid biopsy test

GRAIL, a startup developing cancer liquid biopsy tests, raised a $390 million series D round. Read more about which companies raised funding this week.

GRAIL, a startup developing a blood test to screen for multiple cancers, added another $390 million to its war chest. To date, the Menlo Park-based company has raised more than $1.9 billion.

In March, GRAIL published a study showing its blood test could spot more than 50 different types of cancers across all stages of their growth. An earlier study demonstrated it was able to spot 12 cancer types with 76 percent accuracy, and with a low rate of false positives — about 1 percent.

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“GRAIL is making significant progress with our blood-based, multi-cancer early detection test,” GRAIL CEO Hans Bishop said in a news release. “Nearly 80 percent of cancer deaths result from cancers for which there is no screening test today, and GRAIL’s mission is to change that through the early detection and localization of more than 50 cancers. Enabling this through a single blood draw could improve patient access and adherence to cancer screening and address disparities in cancer care by improving access for rural, vulnerable, and under-served populations.”

Two Canadian pension boards led the series D funding round, including Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments) and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments). Two undisclosed investors also participated in the round, along with Illumina Inc.

The startup was spun out of sequencing giant Illumina in 2017.



Amount: $71 million

Headquarters: New York and Dublin

At-home testing startup LetsGetChecked raised $71 million in funding. The company plans to use the additional funding to scale up its CLIA-certified high complexity lab in California, and make more Covid-19 tests available to healthcare professionals.

The company is one of many that moved quickly to develop an at-home Covid-19 test. But so far, the FDA has not given most at-home testing companies the green light to send their tests to consumers. In the meantime, LetsGetChecked is making its testing kits available to healthcare professionals. They consist of a rapid serology test, which can provide results within 15 minutes, and a PCR-based test, with swab samples being sent into the company’s CLIA lab.

LetsGetChecked CEO Peter Foley said the company had been delivering tens of thousands of tests per day to healthcare workers.

“We are working hard to deliver COVID-19 testing into the home and hope to have an answer soon. At-home testing has never been more important as consumers around the world look for new and trusted methods for managing their health,” he said in a news release.

LetsGetChecked was founded in 2014. The company built up its platform on offering a number of at-home tests, including screenings for common STDs, colon-cancer screenings and blood sugar tests.

Illumina Ventures and HLM Venture Partners co-led the company’s oversubscribed series C round. Steve Tolle, a partner with HLM Ventures, joined the startup’s board.

“HLM invests in companies that inherently drive adoption due to the need they serve, and companies that leverage important market trends,” he said in a news release. “In this case, LetsGetChecked is helping to improve consumer access to care, which is increasingly essential.”



Amount: $25 million

Headquarters: New York

Owkin, a startup looking to create a secure way for researchers to share clinical data, raised $25 million in funding. The company is building decentralized platform that can be used by data scientists, researchers and pharmaceutical companies to develop more effective treatments. This would all be done without sharing patient data to one central location.

The technology behind this is federated learning, a framework for developing machine learning models that allows them to train on distributed data without hosting all of that data in one place. For example, researchers at one hospital could train their AI models on another hospital’s data without ever having to move it. Owkin says this method is more secure and better protects patients’ privacy.

Bpifrance Large Venture led the funding round, with co-investments from Cathay Innovation and MACSF, a French pension fund for clinicians. Past investors include GV, F-Prime Capital and Eight Roads.


Helium Health

Amount: $10M

Headquarters: Lagos, Nigeria

Helium Health, a Lagos-based health IT company, closed a $10 million series A round. The startup is developing an electronic medical record system, as well as a suite of related products, including a telemedicine platform and a billing solution for healthcare providers.

The company was founded in 2016 with the goal of becoming the leading provider of healthcare technology solutions for hospitals in Africa. It currently works with health systems in Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia.  The startup went through Y Combinator in 2017.

Global Ventures and Africa Healthcare Masterfund co-led the funding round.

“From our first meeting with the management team, we saw that the company had an outstanding track record and huge potential for digitizing the healthcare sector in Africa,” Nobuhiko Ichimiya, co-lead Investor of the Africa Healthcare Masterfund, said in a news release.


Photo: Abscent84, Getty Images