RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

San Diego-based Illumina, which founded GRAIL in 2016 and then spun it off as a standalone business, has reentered the picture.

It’s acquiring the Menlo Park, CA diagnostics company, whose mission is “to detect cancer early when it can be cured.” The price tag is $8 billion in cash and stock. GRAIL stockholders also will receive future payments that represent a single-digit percentage of certain GRAIL-related revenues.

GRAIL has a North Carolina connection. It recently announced plans to invest $103 million and create nearly 400 new jobs in Research Triangle Park over the next four years. The company said earlier this month that it also was preparing to go public.

An inside look at GRAIL, the California healthcare firm bringing hundreds of jobs to RTP

That’s when Illumina stepped in. It currently holds 14.5% of GRAIL’s outstanding shares and will buy the reminder as part of the transaction. At closing, current Illumina stockholders will own 93% of the combined company while GRAIL stockholders will have approximately 7%. GRAIL will operate as a separate division, with a dedicated leadership team.

The combination of the two companies appears to be a good fit. Illumina is a global leader in DNA sequencing and array-based technologies. GRAIL is developing a “liquid biopsy” multi-cancer screening test – Galleri – powered by Illumina’s next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology.

Galleri can, according to the company, detect more than 50 cancers across all stages – with a false positive rate of less than 1.0%.

“Galleri is among the most promising new tools in the fight against cancer, and we are thrilled to welcome GRAIL back to Illumina to help transform cancer care using genomics and our NGS platform,” said Francis deSouza, Illumina’s president and CEO. “Together, we have an important opportunity to introduce routine and broadly available blood-based screening that enables early cancer detection when treatment can be more effective and less costly.”

The transaction will extend Illumina’s portfolio to include cancer screening, diagnosis and monitoring. And it will create a portfolio of proprietary tests in each of the major areas of oncology, the company said. Illumina also plans to use its size and capabilities to help drive growth, and will compliment its sequencing technology with GRAIL’s testing know-how.

“Cancer is one of society’s most significant challenges, with most cancer being detected too late,” said Hans Bishop, GRAIL’s CEO. “Combining forces with Illumina enables broader and faster adoption of GRAIL’s innovative, multi-cancer early detection blood test, enhancing patient access and expanding global reach.”

GRAIL’s previously announced investment in RTP will continue as planned, according to the company.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center