Ex-Google exec Jeff Huber steps down as GRAIL CEO

Jeff Huber, former Google executive, has stepped down from his role as CEO at promising cancer testing firm GRAIL after just over a year in the role.  

Founded last year as a spin out from genetics analysis company Illumina, GRAIL’s promise of revolutionising cancer blood testing attracted the attention of major investors, accruing $1 billion in funding from the likes of Alphabet, Amazon and Bill Gates. 

One of the founding CEOs of the company was Huber who, prior to his time at GRAIL, had worked for Google in its Engineering, GeoCommerce and experimental technology division, Google X.  

Although having little experience in the healthcare market, excluding his two-year stint as a board member at Illumina, Huber had the personal experience of cancer to make up for it, having lost his wife to the disease in 2015.  

Huber will now step down from his role as CEO and become vice chairman of the board of directors where he will “provide his expertise on the intersection between life sciences and computer science.” 

Taking Huber’s place is Bill Rastetter, chairman of GRAIL’s board of directors. 

“I am incredibly proud of the GRAIL team and all that we have accomplished together since launching the company last year,” said Huber in a statement. “With this solid foundation in place, it’s an appropriate time to transition leadership to prepare for commercialisation.”

“In my new role as vice chairman, I look forward to focusing on technology and innovation to deliver on GRAIL’s mission to detect cancer early, when it can be cured.” 

How Huber’s move will affect Grail’s ambitions will remain to be seen, however, the firm will continue with its large-scale clinical trials using its technology.  

It is currently enlisting participants for its Circulating Cell-Free Genome Atlas (CCGA) Study, which aims to build a complete genomic library of cancer, and will soon be kicking off its STRIVE study which plans to enlist 120,000 women at the time of their screening mammogram to create a breast cancer detection test.  

GRAIL will soon have some major competition though. Huber’s former employer in Google recently opened a lab for Freenome – a company it invested in earlier this year – on its San Francisco campus.

Freenome’s objective is similar to GRAIL’s in that it is developing liquid biopsy screening tests to detect cancer earlier.

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