Big names gamble big bucks on blood tests for early cancer detection

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Forget biopsies, ultrasounds, mammograms, pap smears, rectal exams, and other unpleasant cancer screenings—the race is now on for simple, affordable blood tests that can detect all sorts of cancers extremely early. On Sunday, genetic sequencing company  Illumina Inc. announced the start of a new company called Grail, which will join dozens of companies developing such blood tests. Toting big-name investors including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Illumina’s high-profile startup raised more than $100 million to get Grail going. The company hopes that Grail’s tests will be on the market by 2019 and cost around $500 a pop. Though researchers have recently questioned the benefits of early cancer screening—showing in some cases that early detection does not generally save lives —Illumina is confident that the science behind the blood-based screens is at least possible. Illumina Chief Executive Jay Flatley, who will be Grail’s chairman, said Illumina has been working on the tests for about a year and a half. “We’ve made tremendous progress, which gives us the confidence that we can get to the endpoint that we expect.” Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Big names gamble big bucks on blood tests for early cancer detection

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