Illinois alumnus Jeff Huber, whose company is developing a revolutionary blood test to detect early stage cancer, will be the U. of I.'s commencement speaker on Saturday, May 14. The event starts at 9:30 a.m. in Memorial Stadium.
Huber is the CEO of Grail, a company that builds on "ultradeep genome sequencing" technology, leading-edge computing, bioinformatics and machine learning to create unprecedented scientific understanding of cancer biology. The company was formed with a more than $100 million investment by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Illumina (the leader in genome sequencing), ARCH Ventures, Google Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures.
According to a CNN story, Grail's new test uses a technique called "liquid biopsy," which scans blood for traces of cancer DNA and then indicates that a tumor is forming – even before the doctor or patient have detected it. By detecting cancer early, at stage 1 or stage 2, 80 to 90 percent of cancers can be cured with current treatments, Huber said.
Huber said he founded the company in memory of his wife, Laura, who died of cancer after a late diagnosis.
Huber earned his bachelor's degree in computer engineering from the U. of I. in 1989 and a master's degree from Harvard University.
"We tell our graduates that an Illinois degree is far more than a seal on a piece of paper. I can’t think of anyone who better demonstrates that kind of transformational creativity, drive and vision than Jeff Huber," said Interim Chancellor Barb Wilson. "We hope it serves as a constant reminder that our students leave here with the knowledge and skills to literally reimagine and reinvent their world."
Prior to joining Grail, Huber was an engineer and senior executive at Google from 2003-16. At Google, he played leadership roles in developing and improving landmark products such as Google Maps and Gmail. Huber also led technology development for Google Ads, which transformed the company from a $1 billion business to a $50 billion business. He also worked at the intersection of life sciences and computing at Google[x].
Prior to that, he was vice president of architecture and systems development at eBay and senior vice president of engineering at Excite@Home, where he led consumer product and infrastructure development.
Huber is a member of the boards of directors of Electronic Arts and The Exploratorium, and a former board member of Illumina.
For more information on Huber, see an article on the website of the department of electrical and computer engineering.