Startup Spotlight: Grail’s blood test for cancer
Silicon Valley healthcare firm Grail was founded in 2016 with the intention of developing a blood test to detect multiple cancer types early, at a stage where treatment is far more possible.
Its most recent round was announced last week, a Series D worth $390mn attracting new investors the Public Sector Pension Investment Board and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The funds were said to support the development and commercialisation of Grail’s blood test.
“GRAIL is making significant progress with our blood-based, multi-cancer early detection test,” said Hans Bishop, Chief Executive Officer at GRAIL in the press 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. We are delighted that such a high-quality group of investors share our vision and recognize the public health benefits of our technology.”
Its early detection test has, the company says, been shown to detect “more than 50 cancer types with a very low false positive rate of less than one percent”, with the test also able to identify where in the body the cancer is located. The test is enabled through machine-learning, using a proprietary database of cancer signatures.
Grail’s claims have been scientifically validated in a publication in the Annals of Oncology scientific journal, with the company’s co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer saying: “This is a seminal moment in the field of cancer detection. We’ve built what we believe to be one of the largest clinical study programs ever conducted in genomic medicine, and the data published in Annals of Oncology further support GRAIL’s approach and commitment to clinical and scientific rigor.”
Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”