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Grail Inks Deals With Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb for MRD Test Development

NEW YORK — Grail said today that it will collaborate with three global pharmaceutical firms — Amgen, AstraZeneca, and Bristol Myers Squibb — to evaluate its methylation-based technology for the detection of minimal residual disease in early-stage cancer patients.

Blood-based genomic tests to detect MRD have emerged rapidly in recent years, with multiple companies exploring a variety of platforms. The most prominent so far have been assays like Natera's Signatera, which use sequencing data from tumor tissue samples to develop patient-specific liquid biopsy assays.

Grail aims to adapt the targeted methylation platform it has developed for cancer screening to instead screen cancer patient's blood for signs of MRD, providing a simpler solution that would not require upfront tissue samples or personalized assays.

The company first outlined its MRD plans last year in documents filed as part of a planned IPO before the firm was acquired by Illumina.

Most of Grail's work so far has been focused on cancer screening. But in a separate announcement today, the company said its pivotal early-detection trial PATHFINDER has now completed enrollment and will be presented in the second half of this year, paving the way for clinical launch and allowing the firm to shift its attention to exploring other use cases, such as MRD.

"Research has shown that we can improve outcomes across cancer types by treating patients as early as possible and intervening early if cancer recurs, which underpins our strategy," Carl Barrett, vice president of translational science and oncology R&D at AstraZeneca, said in a statement. "This collaboration with Grail will allow us to test a promising approach for monitoring MRD and detecting recurrence — tools that will provide critical information that we hope can optimize patient treatment plans."

Financial terms of the agreements were not disclosed.

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