He built Google's advertising and mapping systems and is now CEO of Cancer Early Diagnostics
Jeff Huber, who has worked for Google for more than a decade, created Google's adware and iconic map app. But just this week, he left Google and opted for a more personal challenge: developing early detection of cancer.
Jeff Huber is about to become Grail's new CEO. Grail, which just last month completed a $100 million funding deal, has developed a blood test that can detect cancer when it can be cured.
Jeff Hueber left Google to join such a startup for both scientific and personal reasons. On November 10 last year,HuberHis wife, Laura, died of colon cancer. She left behind two children, aged 12 and 14. "It's actually an important reason why I chose to join Grail, " says Mr. Hueber. "
Before his wife, Laura, fell ill, Hueber had turned his attention to biological science. He devoted much of his early years to Google's app, Google Maps. Unlike building a large system at Google, he feels that the field of biological science is undergoing a "phase change", similar to turning analog into digital signals. Getting huge amounts of data, such as DNA test results, allows researchers to better understand complex biological systems. And The expertise of Hueber was a good way to drive the revolution.
Hueber joined the board of Illumina, a company that has given scientists a boost in cracking DNA genetic codes. Hueber turned his work entirely to life sciences.
The cancer took away Uber's wife Laura, who was only 46 years old and very healthy and energetic. She has no family history of cancer. When she found out her energy was waning, doctors initially told her she might just be going through menopause. But the diagnosis didn't tch well, so they decided to do more tests. Endoscopes and colonoscopies show that it may be irritable bowel syndrome, the worst of which may be Crohn's disease or inflammatory bowel disease.
Unfortunately, however, through examination, they found a 2cm colorectal cancer tumor. Fortunately, the tumor is still very small and the probability of being cured by surgery is high. But before the operation, doctors performed a standard test: they injected Laura with a small amount of radioactive glucose, something terrible happened, and the tumor, stimulated by glucose, spread frantically through Laura's body.
Doctors used all available medications for treatment, but there was still nothing they could do. "By the time she was diagnosed and started treatment, the cancer had started to spread like crazy, attacking her body's immune system," Humber said. Medication is no longer useful. "
While his family was struggling with cancer, Hueber learned from Illumina about new ideas for fighting cancer. The company has been looking for new uses for DNA sequencer, and scientists believe they have found traces of early tumors detected by blood.
Illumina's scientists found that if you sequence DNA multiple times, researchers can get an exact copy of the genome after less than 30 times. And if you sequence it hundreds of times, you can have fragments of big cancer DNA or RNA. In fact, such blood tests will be able to find many genetic mutations and require more research. But such an attempt could change the world: early screening for cancer through blood tests.
Last month, Illumina announced that it would form a new company, GRAIL, to develop such blood tests. The company also received $100 million in investments from Illumina, Sutter Hill Ventures, ARCH Ventures, Bezos Expeditions and Bill Gates. Recently, the company announced that Uber will become CEO of the company. Huber joined largely because he had witnessed his wife's cancer.
Cancer screening is actually the confirmation of cancer DNA that is currently in the blood and cannot be detected. Grail's screening concept, similar to liquid biopsies, uses blood samples to screen genetic information to find out how tumors respond to a cancer treatment.
By simply pumping blood, Grail hopes to find traces in the blood before the cancer spreads on a large scale. Illumina's 30-person team has been studying the project for more than a year, and now it's joining Grail.
Over the next two years, Grail's focus will be on further optimizing this test. Grail has already worked with research institutions such as Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Once their research and development were ultimately successful, Humber hopes to truly achieve early screening for cancer - a misdiagnosis of cancer that can lead to the spread of cancer cells.
Of course, Uber thinks it should be three or four years from now. And Grail does so many experiments and ensures effectiveness that it may take longer.
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