Jeff Huber, a former Google X senior vice president, is joining Grail, as its CEO, Technology Review reports.
Grail, which was launched by Illumina last month, aims to develop a blood-based next-generation sequencing screening test to detect cancer early on, as GenomeWeb reported earlier this year. It has raised more than $100 million in a Series A financing round from Arch Venture Partners and Illumina, and has investments from Bezos Expeditions, Bill Gates, and Sutter Hill Venture.
While at Google, Huber helped build the systems that manage and analyze the data used for AdWords, Google Maps, and the Google Apps, Reuters notes. He then joined Google X and began working on data and the life sciences. He joined Illumina's board in 2014.
But when Huber's wife died of colon cancer last year, his work took on more of a personal meaning. "I had already been ramping up on the biology and science behind this and then there was this very poignant reminder of the implications that there has to be a better way to do this," Huber tells Reuters.
"She's one story among millions of stories," he adds at Forbes. "But it is a potentially interesting case study. If Grail had existed previously, if it had been available three years ago or four years ago or five years ago when she got her annual physical exam and did a blood test anyway, and if the results had come back then saying that you have early stage cancer, there's a very good chance that the outcome for her could have been different."
But, as Forbes' Matthew Herper notes, Grail's test doesn't exist yet and as technological and other hurdles to overcome before it could be used.