Peer Review, People

Grail taps Genentech vet Jennifer Cook as CEO, building expectations for 2018

Jennifer Cook

After a curious series of C-suite departures, Silicon Valley’s Grail has locked in on someone whom it trusts to lead the cancer detection biotech into commercial operations: Jennifer Cook. Cook replaces interim CEO Bill Rastetter, the Illumina advisor who stepped in after founding CEO Jeff Huber resigned in August.

If her resume is any indication, Cook is here to stay. An early devotee to biotech, she has worked at Genentech pretty much her whole career (minus a four-year stint at a startup early on), joining in 1987 and moving to Roche in 2013, after Genentech had become a subsidiary.

The optics of stability can’t hurt. Grail has been seen as playing executive musical chairs, with former CSO Vik Bajaj leaving for Foresite Capital after a year on the job. And that was after the heads of data science and clinical development/medical affairs quietly left.

Cook’s international experience also seems to match Grail’s plans for 2018. At Roche, she worked her way up to global head of clinical operations after taking the reins in Europe. Meanwhile, Grail is starting out in Asia with a screening test for nasopharyngeal cancer, a prevalent disease in Southern China and Southeast Asia. The first launch is planned in Hong Kong, where the company has a collaboration with a local university.

“Grail has made great progress in the two years since its formation,” said Cook in a statement. “I am excited to join the team as the company moves into a pivotal year when it is poised to start delivering insights from its clinical studies and begin commercialization.”


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