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Jeff Huber, Key Google X Exec, Departs to Lead Cancer Diagnosis Startup Grail

A very personal departure for the longtime Googler.

Jeff Huber, a veteran Google executive instrumental in the formation of its Google X research lab, is leaving the company to become CEO of Grail, a biotech startup that develops blood tests to detect cancer.

It’s a deeply personal move. Huber’s wife, Laura, passed away from cancer last year. Huber posted about the move on his Google+ page:

My work at Grail is dedicated in remembrance of my wife, Laura. She fought an incredibly brave battle with her cancer, but it was ultimately a losing battle since it was diagnosed so late (at stage 4). If Grail had existed before, and caught her cancer earlier, it’s very possible she’d still be with us today. Things don’t “happen for a reason,” but you can find purpose and meaning in things that do happen. When Grail succeeds, hopefully many, many people and their loved ones can be spared the cancer experience Laura endured.

Jeff Huber, CEO, Grail
Jeff Huber, CEO, Grail

Grail splashed onto the market last month with a $100 million Series A round that included some marquee investors, like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. Beyond the technical challenge, the startup must convince regulators that its approach is a valid early diagnosis tool — at a time when biotech companies are under particular scrutiny, thanks to the public issues with Theranos.

Huber has been at Google since 2003. He was a critical engineering SVP for its ad, apps and maps units before shifting over to Google X in 2013. In 2014, he joined the board of Illumina, a genetics research company that also invested in Grail.

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