PathAI, a company that uses artificial intelligence-powered technology for advancing pathology research, has closed a Series B financing round after snagging $15 million from Merck Global Health Initiative Fund (Merck GHIF) and Bristol-Myers Squibb. This brings the total amount of money raised in this financing round to $75 million.
The company announced that it will use the money to bolster and accelerate its growing clinical development capabilities, adding that the investment serves to deepen PathAI’s relationship with Merck GHIF and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), leaders in the development of cancer therapies.
PathAI co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Andy Beck said, “Merck, BMS, and other strategic partners understand that having the best possible insight into the data is incredibly important for driving continued advancements in the rapidly moving field of immuno-oncology, ultimately helping to bring new and better treatments to patients faster.”
David M. Rubin, Managing Director of Merck GHIF, said that PathAI’s industry-leading work of incorporating artificial intelligence into digital pathology holds the potential to change the way cancer is treated and diagnosed.
Global Head of Translational Medicine at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Saurabh Saha, said, “Artificial intelligence is an increasingly important tool in healthcare research and development, and we’ve seen the quality of PathAI’s work first-hand. We are excited to take this next step in our partnership with PathAI and to work together to deliver continued scientific and therapeutic advancements for patients.”
PathAI receives the thumbs up from investors
Since its formation in 2016, PathAI has raised $90 million.
In April 2019, PathAI announced that it had raised $60 million in a Series B financing round, which was led by venture capital firms General Atlantic and General Catalyst, with strategic participation from LabCorp, a leading global life sciences company that provides comprehensive clinical laboratory and end-to-end drug development service.
Following that fund infusion, Michelle Dipp, General Atlantic’s Managing Director, joined PathAI’s board of directors.
At the time, PathAI said its immediate plans were to enhance its offerings to existing partners, drive continuous improvement of its proprietary research platform, meet market demands, fuel research and development into emerging tools and devices, partner with leading pharmaceutical companies to develop life-saving drugs, and to collaborate with laboratories to develop better solutions for patients.
What PathAI does
PathAI is working on artificial intelligence-based technology to help pathologists make quick and accurate diagnoses. Pathologists, who analyze tissue and fluid samples to diagnose disease, have historically analyzed such samples manually.
The startup says digital-pathology solutions and smart-image analysis software can reduce pathologists’ routine workload, improve diagnostic accuracy and precision, and reduce error rates. This comes against a backdrop of a rising shortage of pathologists and an increase in cancer caseloads.
The Boston, MA-based company says its AI platform promises substantial improvements to the accuracy of diagnosis and treatment efficacy of diseases like cancer, leveraging modern approaches in machine and deep learning.
Just recently, PathAI reported that its pathology AI algorithm performed on par or better than board-certified pathologists in retrospective immunotherapy studies. The studies were conducted with BMS and tested the algorithm retrospectively in samples from trials of BMS’ programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1) inhibitor nivolumab (Opdivo).
In another study, PathAI, in collaboration with Gilead, showed that AI-powered pathology research models could accurately interpret liver histology in patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
“The data generated by the PathAI research platform clearly demonstrate the potential of automated, machine learning-based histologic assessment in NASH clinical trials,” said Mani Subramanian, Senior Vice President, Liver Diseases, Gilead Sciences.
In 2017, PathAI partnered with Royal Philips to develop deep learning for breast cancer diagnosis. The focus of the collaboration was on developing applications to detect and quantify cancerous lesions in breast cancer tissue.
Digital pathology; a growing sector
The digital pathology sector has had a few entrants in the past few years. In October 2018, Deep Lens, a cloud-based digital pathology startup, emerged from stealth mode with $3.2 million in seed funding. The funding was to be used to enhance the firm’s cloud-based pathology workflows that use AI to improve efficiency in cancer diagnosis and match patients to clinical trials.
In April 2019, Deep Lens closed a $14 million Series A financing, led by Northpond Ventures. There was also participation from existing investors Rev1 Ventures, Sierra Ventures, and Tamarind-Hill Partners.
Other startups in that field include Israeli company, Israel-based Nucleai, Paige.AI and