Grail, a cancer-detection startup, is trying to raise more money amid a whirlwind of changes that haven’t been properly communicated, just months after they raised almost $1 billion in a Series B round. Reportedly, Grail is seeking new funding for its new breast cancer trial.
The company is reaching out to sovereign funds this round, according to CNBC. Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi $125 billion sovereign fund, has been contacted by the startup. They’ve also contacted SoftBank, a Japanese private equity firm.
Grail invested nearly $100 million in a merger with Chinese startup Cirina, and the new funding could also be used to rebuy shares of Illumina, Grail’s parent company, according with TechCrunch. The company has invested heavily in a clinical study involving 10,000 patients, intended to grant them a detailed map of cancer genetics, which is called Circulating Cell-Free Genome Atlas Study (CCGA).
But Grail will face this new series of fundraising and incoming studies without some key players. Three months ago, Grail’s head of business development, Elaine Cheung departed to Mindstrong Health. She is the latest in a list of top personnel who left Grail without further explanation.
Grail also lost two top scientists without announcement or reasons for their departures. In September, Mark Lee left Grail after joining the company in January 2016 as Head of Clinical Development and Medical Affairs. He is now Roche’s Global Head for Personalized Health and Product Developer in Genentech/ Roche. In October, Franz Och, Grail’s head of data science, left the company, according to BuzzFeed News. Before joining Grail, Oche was the chief data scientist in Human Longevity, another genome startup.
On August, Jeff Huber stepped down as Grail’s CEO, and was substituted by Bill Rastetter, though Huber retained his seat at the board.
Grail didn’t comment on the departures, but a representative of the firm told Buzzfeed News that the company “recently underwent a reorganization to focus on nearer-term, unanticipated product opportunities from our R&D organization.”
Investors in Grail include GV (formerly Google Ventures), Sutter Hill Ventures, Merck pharmaceutical, and Amazon. Among its founders are tech visionaries like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.