Until about a year ago, few outside of Silicon Valley had heard of Jeff Huber. Insiders knew him as the cerebral Midwesterner who as a top engineering executive helped build Google's advertising, apps and maps businesses. But all that changed in early February when he became CEO of a startup called Grail, a company developing a genetic blood test aimed at detecting cancer earlier than is currently possible. The hope is that will reduce the disease to a footnote. That ambition made Mr. Huber a celebrity CEO, profiled by Forbes and other major media, before he'd finished leasing office space.
A lot has happened since then. Approaching its first birthday, Grail has tripled in size to 130 people, Mr. Huber said in an interview with The Information. It has finished its first U.S. clinical trial with 1,000 patients and begun a new trial with 10,000 patients. And it has cut the time it takes to process a genome by a factor of 10. Mr. Huber said Grail recently processed 500 genomes in a weekend, a task that would have taken three weeks when Grail started.