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Grail and Cirina Merge to Focus on Early Cancer Detection

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Grail and Cirina, two startups looking to commercialize liquid biopsy tests for early cancer detection, have decided to join forces.

Cirina, which was founded by Dennis Lo of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and raised $12 million in a Series A financing round in 2014, will operate as a subsidiary of Grail.

Lo is a pioneer in the field of circulating cell-free DNA, and his lab licensed the technology that led to Sequenom's development of the first commercial noninvasive prenatal test for Down syndrome. He will be a scientific co-founder of the combined entity and will join Grail's scientific advisory board. Maneesh Jain, CEO of Cirina, will also join the Grail team. In addition, Min Cui, founding partner and managing director of Decheng Capital, which led Cirina's Series A financing, will join Grail's board as an observer.

Combining with Cirina will enable Grail to expand into Asian markets since Cirina was based out of Hong Kong and had research collaborations with CUHK. Grail CEO Jeff Huber said in a statement that the Grail team is looking forward to collaborating with Lo and colleagues Rossa Chiu and Allen Chan at CUHK. "By combining our scientific expertise and resources, we will greatly enhance our ability to achieve our goal of reducing global cancer mortality through the early detection of cancer," he said.

In a research note, Doug Schenkel, an analyst with investment bank Cowen, said that the business combination would "better position Grail to expand its global impact by developing and commercializing products in Asian and Western markets; this includes Cirina technologies and products currently under development."

Grail has already launched two clinical trials: one in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic and Sutter Health to test its next-generation sequencing-based blood test for early-stage breast cancer detection, and another to use its NGS approach to profile both patients with and without cancer.