The UK’s digital healthcare scene has seen its second multi-million pound startup funding this year alone.
London based artificial intelligence (AI) health service provider babylon has secured $25 million (approximately £17.4 million as of January 14), to develop what it calls "the world’s most advanced digital platform in healthcare".
The amount received represents the largest series A investment in European digital health to date.
The financing was led by Investment AB Kinnevik, the Swedish listed entrepreneurial investment group that builds digital consumer brands. Other investors included the founders of BXR Group, DeepMind, the British AI company acquired by Google for $500 million in 2014, Innocent Drinks, and Hoxton Ventures.
With the raised money, babylon plans to deploy the latest gains in AI and data analytics in its platform and expand its reach from today’s 250,000 UK users.
The start-up’s platform will utilise machine learning to analyse genetics, environment, behaviour and biology, in addition to key body functions to ensure users are staying healthy and provide real time personalised health advice as and when needed.
The company wants to place immediate, comprehensive and affordable healthcare "into the hands of everyone" and deliver preventative healthcare in addition to sick care.
Dr Ferdinando Rodriguez y Baena, senior member of the IEEE and reader in medical robotics at Imperial College, told CBR: "It appears that babylon may be well on its way to harvest this recent technological advances in the healthcare domain, which is wonderful news for the UK and Europe.
"Many of these opportunities are time critical and babylon’s early start may just be what will eventually allow them to lead the pack."
babylon’s healthcare platform is based on a mobile app that allows users to see a doctor or a therapist in real time, text medical questions, monitor their health, order tests and kits and access clinical records.
In addition, the app notifies patients when their prescriptions are ready with the user being able to select which pharmacy they want to collect their medicine from. For non-urgent medicine, the products can be delivered to patient’s homes.
Where medicine is prescribed, the platform will be able to monitor course completion and assess the effectiveness of the treatment, providing an end-to-end service. babylon plans to launch a full roll out of the service later this year.
Dr. Ali Parsa, CEO of Babylon told CBR: "Our mission is to democratise healthcare; to make better health accessible and affordable to everyone in the world. We only have so many doctors, so to achieve this we need to harness the power of artificial intelligence and real-time human data, in addition to medical expertise."
He also said that a very different model and means of delivery of healthcare is unfolding, and it should make the future of healthcare significantly better and accessible to all. "Artificial intelligence will make healthcare unrecognisable in the next ten years," Dr. Parsa said.
Several companies have partnered with babylon to offer its services to UK employees, including Citigroup, Sky, MasterCard, Mercer, Bupa and Aviva.
The startup is also at an early stage of partnering with the NHS to make its services available to the broader UK population.
babylon’s funding round follows last week’s PushDoctor, another British startup working in the digital health space, who raised $8.2 million (approx. £5.7 million) in its series A funding round to improve data analytics on its app-enabled video consultation with a doctor.
The AI healthcare market is expected to grow globally at a CAGR of 40% up to 2021, when it will be worth $6,662.2 billion, up from 2014’s $633.8 million, according to Frost & Sullivan.
Dr Baena said: "AI has picked up incredible momentum over the past few years, mostly thanks to the staggering computational improvements achievable via parallel computing methods powered by Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) and access to the cloud."
He explained that these advancements enable massive computations on huge data to be performed remotely on powerful machines, before they are delivered to a mobile application. Examples of how AI is improving lives today are evident in, for instance, predictive searches and car navigation.
"Healthcare is the next obvious application area for this exciting new technology. With smart sensors mounted on your wrist, embedded in your phone, and even in your home, there is now access to a plethora of inputs which must somehow relate to an individual’s health.
"AI may offer an ideal tool to recognise complex patterns in this large dataset, with a view to predicting disease and keeping healthy," he said.