Grail’s mission is to detect cancer early – even before any symptoms appear. Although not yet fully understood, scientists believe that people who go onto develop cancer initially possess tiny amounts of tumor DNA (ctDNA) in their circulatory systems. If scientists can pick up on this before a tumor develops, the chances of surviving the cancer are greatly increased. In order to understand this process better, scientists from Grail are collecting vast amounts of this ctDNA data, with the intention of using it to build intelligent prediction models. Once the trials are concluded, it should be possible to develop products which will be able to detect cancer early in asymptomatic individuals, giving people far better odds for being cured.

How they’re disrupting

Effective screening only exists for a few cancer types, meaning most cancer is detected in later stages, when survival rates are much lower. Reliable detection of cancer at an early stage before symptoms appear has the potential to dramatically decrease global cancer mortality.

Disruption potential

There are currently between 14 and 15 million cases of cancer reported globally each year. With such early detection Grail has the potential to save millions of lives in the future – before people even realise anything is wrong.

Investments and future

Investors behind this early-cancer screening project include Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and genetic analysts Illumina, with total funding currently sitting at $1 billion. The majority of which comes from the $900 million gained in a series B funding round in March this year, with the lead investment from ARCH Venture partners.

Grail is an outlier from the otherwise non-unicorn status companies which make up the Disrupt 100. Although the company is now valued at well over $1 billion, it couldn’t be dismissed from this year’s index due to the huge disruption potential the company has.