Paige, the computational pathology startup targeting cancer, closes Series B at $70M

Paige, the startup that spun out of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and launched in 2018 to help advance cancer research and care by applying AI to better understand cancer pathology, is today announcing a milestone in its growth story: it has raised a further $20 million from Goldman Sachs and Healthcare Venture Partners, closing out its Series B at $70 million.

Leo Grady, Paige’s CEO, says the funding will go towards several areas.

It will be used for hiring; to continue expanding its partnerships with biopharmaceutical companies (deals that have not yet been made public); and to continue investing in clinical work, based around algorithms it has built and trained using more than 25 million pathology slides in MSK’s archive, plus IP related to the AI-based computational pathology that underpins Paige’s work. It will also be used to help it expand to the UK and Europe. Paige has a CE mark to be used clinically in both regions and the startup already has beta sites in the UK and EU, but it hasn’t had a fully commercial launch in either region, Grady said.

Paige — which has now raised more than $95 million with other investors including Breyer Capital, MSK and Kenan Turnacioglu — is keeping quiet about its valuation. But for some context, we noted that it was around $208 million when the first tranche of the round was announced — $45 million in December 2019, with a further $5 million in April. It attracted this latest $20 million in part because business has been strong, Grady noted. As a result, despite it being a generally tough climate for raising money right now, Paige didn’t face those challenges.

“The climate in which Goldman made its initial investment” — the $5 million round in April — “was when COVID-19 had hit hard and they were realising the magnitude,” Grady said. “They wanted to see how things played out for Paige in the economy. But the way it has been going has been encouraging.”

Indeed, a lot of attention these days is focused around the current public health crisis making its way around the world in the form of COVID-19, and the knock-on effects that it is having across the economy and socially. Paige’s growth in that context has been interesting.

We’re still in the early stages of understanding COVID-19 and how it interacts with other conditions (such as cancer) — and it’s not an area that Paige is directly exploring in its work. But in the meantime, its platform — based around digitised slides — has come into its own for clinicians and others who can no longer regularly physically visit laboratories.

Paige’s enterprise imaging system — the company was co-founded by Dr Thomas Fuchs, known as the “father of computational pathology” and is the director of Computational Pathology in The Warren Alpert Center for Digital and Computational Pathology at Memorial Sloan Kettering, as well as a professor of machine learning at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences; and Dr David Klimstra, chairman of the department of pathology at MSK — allows users to view digital slides remotely, and while all hardware manufacturers today have digital viewers, these are proprietary, tied to those scanners and “not built for high performance,” Grady noted.

Paige’s platform allows its users not only to share research and primary data without physically sending slides around, but to use high performance software built to “read” the data in a more comprehensive way than clinicians and researchers would otherwise be able to do. That initially has been applied to work in prostrate and breast cancers but is now also being explored around other cancers as well, Grady said. “We’re adding in information to the workflow, boosting the confidence and quality of data. The first piece [the platform and the slides] enables the second piece.”

The Goldman Sachs investment is coming from the financial services giant’s merchant banking division, and as part of it, David Castelblanco, MD at Goldman Sachs, has joined Paige’s Board of Directors.

“We have been very impressed with the company and its pace of development,” he said in a statement. “We are excited to increase our commitment to support Leo, Thomas and the Paige team’s transformative work with artificial intelligence and machine learning in the cancer field.”

“We initially invested in Paige recognizing the potential of their products to add significant value to the industry and impact the future of cancer care,” added Jeffrey C. Lightcap, senior MD of Healthcare Venture Partners. “After seeing Paige make tremendous progress in such a short period, we added to our investment to further accelerate their growth.”  

Paige, the computational pathology startup targeting cancer, closes Series B at $70M

Paige, the startup that spun out of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and launched in 2018 to help advance cancer research and care by applying AI to better understand cancer pathology, is today announcing a milestone in its growth story: it has raised a further $20 million from Goldman Sachs and Healthcare Venture Partners, closing out its Series B at $70 million.

Leo Grady, Paige’s CEO, says the funding will go towards several areas.

It will be used for hiring; to continue expanding its partnerships with biopharmaceutical companies (deals that have not yet been made public); and to continue investing in clinical work, based around algorithms it has built and trained using more than 25 million pathology slides in MSK’s archive, plus IP related to the AI-based computational pathology that underpins Paige’s work. It will also be used to help it expand to the UK and Europe. Paige has a CE mark to be used clinically in both regions and the startup already has beta sites in the UK and EU, but it hasn’t had a fully commercial launch in either region, Grady said.

Paige — which has now raised more than $95 million with other investors including Breyer Capital, MSK and Kenan Turnacioglu — is keeping quiet about its valuation. But for some context, we noted that it was around $208 million when the first tranche of the round was announced — $45 million in December 2019, with a further $5 million in April. It attracted this latest $20 million in part because business has been strong, Grady noted. As a result, despite it being a generally tough climate for raising money right now, Paige didn’t face those challenges.

“The climate in which Goldman made its initial investment” — the $5 million round in April — “was when COVID-19 had hit hard and they were realising the magnitude,” Grady said. “They wanted to see how things played out for Paige in the economy. But the way it has been going has been encouraging.”

Indeed, a lot of attention these days is focused around the current public health crisis making its way around the world in the form of COVID-19, and the knock-on effects that it is having across the economy and socially. Paige’s growth in that context has been interesting.

We’re still in the early stages of understanding COVID-19 and how it interacts with other conditions (such as cancer) — and it’s not an area that Paige is directly exploring in its work. But in the meantime, its platform — based around digitised slides — has come into its own for clinicians and others who can no longer regularly physically visit laboratories.

Paige’s enterprise imaging system — the company was co-founded by Dr Thomas Fuchs, known as the “father of computational pathology” and is the director of Computational Pathology in The Warren Alpert Center for Digital and Computational Pathology at Memorial Sloan Kettering, as well as a professor of machine learning at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences; and Dr David Klimstra, chairman of the department of pathology at MSK — allows users to view digital slides remotely, and while all hardware manufacturers today have digital viewers, these are proprietary, tied to those scanners and “not built for high performance,” Grady noted.

Paige’s platform allows its users not only to share research and primary data without physically sending slides around, but to use high performance software built to “read” the data in a more comprehensive way than clinicians and researchers would otherwise be able to do. That initially has been applied to work in prostrate and breast cancers but is now also being explored around other cancers as well, Grady said. “We’re adding in information to the workflow, boosting the confidence and quality of data. The first piece [the platform and the slides] enables the second piece.”

The Goldman Sachs investment is coming from the financial services giant’s merchant banking division, and as part of it, David Castelblanco, MD at Goldman Sachs, has joined Paige’s Board of Directors.

“We have been very impressed with the company and its pace of development,” he said in a statement. “We are excited to increase our commitment to support Leo, Thomas and the Paige team’s transformative work with artificial intelligence and machine learning in the cancer field.”

“We initially invested in Paige recognizing the potential of their products to add significant value to the industry and impact the future of cancer care,” added Jeffrey C. Lightcap, senior MD of Healthcare Venture Partners. “After seeing Paige make tremendous progress in such a short period, we added to our investment to further accelerate their growth.”  

Google’s Fitbit deal could avoid EU antitrust probe by agreeing not to use health data for ads

Google announced its plans to acquire Fitbit for $2.1 billion back in November. As of this writing, the deal has yet to go through, courtesy of all the usual regulatory scrutiny that occurs any time one large company buys another. EU regulators are often a key hurdle for these sorts of deals, and this time it may be no different.

Citing “people familiar with the matter,” Reuters notes that Google may be facing down some scrutiny in the form of an EU antitrust investigation if it doesn’t make some concessions. The heart of the concern here is a matter of health privacy. Fitbit — like many other wearable companies — collects a tremendous amount of health information from wearers.

Google, of course, is a company tremendously invested in data and advertising. Critics of the deal have suggested that purchasing Fitbit would provide yet another rich vein of data for Google to mine. As such, the deal could hinge on the promise that Google will never use health data to sell ads.

The stipulation is in keeping with a promise the company made when the acquisition was first announced, with the company’s head of hardware Rick Osterloh promising, “[P]rivacy and security are paramount. When you use our products, you’re trusting Google with your information. We understand this is a big responsibility and we work hard to protect your information, put you in control and give you transparency about your data.”

In a follow-up to this week’s reporting, the company noted that it believes the acquisition would increase competition. While Fitbit has a sizable footprint, Apple, Xiaomi and Huawei currently dominate the category, due in part to Fitbit’s late start in the smartwatch category. Google’s efforts to make inroads through Wear OS have largely come up short, though the company did also purchase a chunk of smartwatch tech from Fossil last January.

A spokesperson also attempted to put to rest potential regulatory fears, stating, “Throughout this process we have been clear about our commitment not to use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads and our responsibility to provide people with choice and control with their data.”

Regulators are set to decide on the deal by July 20. Google reportedly has until July 13 to present its concessions.

Kernel raises $53 million for its non-invasive ‘Neuroscience as a Service’ technology

LA-based bio science startup Kernel has raised $53 million from investors including General Catalyst, Khosla Ventures, Eldridge, Manta Ray Ventures, Tiny Blue Dot and more. The funding is the first outside money that Kernel has taken in, though it’s a Series C round, because founder and CEO Bryan Johnson has provided $54 million in investment for Kernel to date. Johnson also participated in this latest round alongside external investors.

The funding will go towards further scaling “on-demand” access to its non-invasive technology for recording brain activity, which consists of two main approaches. Kernel has distinguished these as two separate products: Flow, which detects magnetic fields created by the collective activity of neutrons in the brain; and Flux, which measures blood through through the brain. These are both key signals that researchers and medical practitioners monitor when working with the brain, but typically they require use of invasive, expensive hardware – or even brain surgery.

Kernel’s goal is to make this much more broadly available, offering access via a ‘Neuroscience as a Service’ (NaaS) model that can provide paying clients access to its brain imaging devices even remotely. Earlier this year, Kernel announced that this platform was available generally to commercial customers.

The technology sounds like sci-fi – but it’s really an attempt to take what has been a relatively closed and prohibitively costly, expert and potentially dangerous to its subjects tech, and make it available as an on-demand capability – in much the same way that many human genome companies have emerged to take advantage of the advances in the speed and availability of human genome sequencing to do the same, for the business and research community.

Johnson’s ambitious long-term goal with the company is to ultimately develop a much deeper understanding in the field of neuroscience.

“If we can quantify thoughts and emotions, conscious and subconscious, a new era of understanding, wellness, and human improvement will emerge,” Johnson writes in a press release.

It’s true that the brain’s inner workings are still largely a mystery to most researchers, especially in terms of how they translate to our cognition, feelings and actions. Kernel’s platform could mean significantly more people studying the

Kernel raises $53 million for its non-invasive ‘Neuroscience as a Service’ technology

LA-based bio science startup Kernel has raised $53 million from investors including General Catalyst, Khosla Ventures, Eldridge, Manta Ray Ventures, Tiny Blue Dot and more. The funding is the first outside money that Kernel has taken in, though it’s a Series C round, because founder and CEO Bryan Johnson has provided $54 million in investment for Kernel to date. Johnson also participated in this latest round alongside external investors.

The funding will go towards further scaling “on-demand” access to its non-invasive technology for recording brain activity, which consists of two main approaches. Kernel has distinguished these as two separate products: Flow, which detects magnetic fields created by the collective activity of neutrons in the brain; and Flux, which measures blood through through the brain. These are both key signals that researchers and medical practitioners monitor when working with the brain, but typically they require use of invasive, expensive hardware – or even brain surgery.

Kernel’s goal is to make this much more broadly available, offering access via a ‘Neuroscience as a Service’ (NaaS) model that can provide paying clients access to its brain imaging devices even remotely. Earlier this year, Kernel announced that this platform was available generally to commercial customers.

The technology sounds like sci-fi – but it’s really an attempt to take what has been a relatively closed and prohibitively costly, expert and potentially dangerous to its subjects tech, and make it available as an on-demand capability – in much the same way that many human genome companies have emerged to take advantage of the advances in the speed and availability of human genome sequencing to do the same, for the business and research community.

Johnson’s ambitious long-term goal with the company is to ultimately develop a much deeper understanding in the field of neuroscience.

“If we can quantify thoughts and emotions, conscious and subconscious, a new era of understanding, wellness, and human improvement will emerge,” Johnson writes in a press release.

It’s true that the brain’s inner workings are still largely a mystery to most researchers, especially in terms of how they translate to our cognition, feelings and actions. Kernel’s platform could mean significantly more people studying the

Nayya, bringing transparency to choosing and managing healthcare plans, raises $2.7 million

Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator -backed Nayya is on a mission to simplify choosing and managing employee benefits through machine learning and data transparency.

The company has raised $2.7 million in seed funding led by Social Leverage with participation from Guardian Strategic Ventures, Cameron Ventures, Soma Capital, as well as other strategic angels.

The process of choosing an employer-provided healthcare plan and understanding that plan can be tedious at best and incredibly confusing at worst. And that doesn’t even include all of the supplemental plans and benefits associated with these programs.

That’s where Nayya comes in. When enrollment starts, employers send out an email that includes a link to Nayya’s Companion, the company’s flagship product.

Companion helps employees find the plan that is right for them. The software first asks a series of questions about lifestyle, location, etc. For example, Nayya founder and CEO Sina Chehrazi explained that people who bike to work, as opposed to driving in a car, walking or taking public transportation, are 20 times more likely to get into an accident and need emergency services.

Companion asks questions in this vein, as well as questions around whether you take medication regularly or if you expect your healthcare costs to go up or down over the next year, without getting into the specifics of chronic ailments or diseases or particular issues.

Taking that data into account, Nayya then looks at the various plans provided by the employer to show you which one matches the user’s particular lifestyle and budget best.

Nayya doesn’t just pull information directly from the insurance company directory listings, as nearly 40 percent of those listings have at least one error or are out of date. It pulls from a broad variety of data sources, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to get the cleanest, most precise data around which doctors are in network and the usual costs associated with visiting those doctors.

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Alongside Companion, Nayya also provides a product called ‘Edison,’ which it has dubbed the Alexa for Helathcare. Users can ask Edison questions like “What is my deductible?” or “Is Dr. So-and-So in my network and what would it cost to go see her?”

The company helps individual users find the right provider for them with the ability to compare costs, location, and other factors involved. Nayya even puts a badge on listings for providers where another employee at the company has gone and had a great experience, giving another layer of validation to that choice.

As the healthtech industry looks to provide easier-to-use healthcare and insurance, the idea of ‘personalization’ has been left behind in many respects. Nayya focuses first and foremost on the end-user and aims to ensure that their own personal healthcare journey is as simple and straightforward as possible, believing that the other pieces of the puzzle will fall into place when the customer is taken care of.

Nayya plans on using the funding to expand the team across engineering, data science, product management and marketing, as well as doubling down on the amount of data the company is purchasing, ingesting and cleaning.

Alongside charging employers on a per seat, per month basis, Nayya is also looking to start going straight to insurance companies with its product.

“The greatest challenge is educating an entire ecosystem and convincing that ecosystem to believe that where the consumer wins, everyone wins,” said Chehrazi. “How to finance and understand your healthcare has never been more important than it is right now, and there is a huge need to provide that education in a data driven way to people. That’s where I want to spend the next I don’t know how many years of my life to drive that change.”

Nayya has five full-time employees currently and 80 percent of the team comes from racially diverse backgrounds.

As COVID-19 surges, 3D printing is having a moment

COVID-19 will be remembered for many things — most undoubtedly negative. There are, however, some silver linings among the horrors of the deadliest pandemic in recent memory. Among them, if the sort of human ingenuity that shines whenever the world is faced with a similar crisis.

The simple truth of the matter is the world wasn’t prepared for a virus of this magnitude. It’s something that’s played out in country after country, as the novel coronavirus has continued to devastate communities across borders.

In spite of early warning signs, many nations — the U.S. certainly included — were caught off-guard, lacking the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and other necessities required to battle the virus for a prolonged stretch. For many, taking on COVID-19 has required improvisation and resourcefulness — both, thankfully, qualities found in good volumes among the maker community that helped give rise to 3D printing technology.

If you’ve followed the technology even in passing over the last decade, you’re no doubt aware how much time evangelists spend justifying the usefulness of 3D printing beyond the the confines of desktop hobbyists. The defensiveness is certainly understandable. Consumer 3D printing has all of the trapping of an overhyped boom and bust. The truth of the matter is that it simply wasn’t ready for the mainstream moment many investors and members of the press were ready to thrust upon it.

But even as desktop 3D printing companies begun to scale back or shutter at an alarming rate, the industry has continued to have success stories among those who have further innovated and targeted the right market. Formlabs jumps out amongst the desktop market, with Carbon presenting a success story on the industrial side of the fence. What unites both beyond innovation is a focus on real-world case uses.

Google confirms US offices will remain closed until at least September, as COVID-19 spikes

A few months back, Google announced plans to reopen some U.S. offices after the July 4th holiday. But the best laid plans, and all of that. Things have obviously not been going great in terms of the United States’ battle with COVID-19, and Google once again finds itself proceeding on the side of caution.

As was first reported by Bloomberg, Google has since confirmed with TechCrunch that it will be pushing back reopening at least until September 7, after the Labor Day holiday in the States. Along with other tech giants like Facebook, Google has noted that it will continue to offer employees the option of working from home through the reminder of the year.

It’s a smart choice, as many no doubt still feel uncomfortable returning to an office situation — not to mention questions around the public transit that may use to get there. Twitter, meanwhile, made waves in May by announcing that employees would be allowed to indefinitely work remotely.

Yesterday, the United States reported more than 47,000 new COVID-19 cases, marking the biggest single day spike since the beginning of the pandemic. Arizona, Florida and Texas have all become epicenters as many other states have seen their own increases in recent weeks. Reopening plans have been put on hold or rolled back in many locales, amid increased concern over the virus’s continued spread. It seems likely other big tech companies will delay their own reopening plans. In most cases, shifting back to the office simply isn’t worth the risk. 

Minneapolis-based VC shop Bread & Butter focuses on its own backyard

While many investors say sheltering in place has broadened their appetite for funding companies located outside major hubs, one firm is doubling down on backing startups in America’s heartland.

Launched in 2016 by Brett Bohl, The Syndicate Fund rebranded to Bread & Butter Ventures earlier this month (a reference to one of Minnesota’s many nicknames). Along with the rebrand, longtime Google executive and Revolution partner Mary Grove joined the team as a general partner and Stephanie Rich came aboard as head of platform.

The growth of the Twin Cities’ startup ecosystem is precisely why The Syndicate Fund rebranded. The firm, which has $10 million in assets under management, will invest in three of Minneapolis’ biggest strengths: agriculture and food, health care and enterprise software.

Agtech interest spans the entire spectrum from farming to restaurants and grocery stores. The firm is also interested in the “messy middle” of supply chain and logistics around food, said Bohl and is interested in a mix of software, hardware and biosciences. Within health care, the firm evaluates solutions focused on prevention versus treatment, female health startups working on maternal health and fertility and software focused on the aging population and millennials.

It’s also looking at enterprise software that can serve large businesses and scale efficiently.

Beyond Burger arrives in Alibaba’s grocery stores in China

Beyond Meat is starting to hit supermarket shelves in China after it first entered the country in April by supplying Starbucks’ plant-based menu. Within weeks, it had also forayed into select KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut outlets — all under the Yum China empire.

China, the world’s biggest market for meat consumption, has seen a growing demand for plant-based protein. Euromonitor predicted that the country’s “free from meat” market, including plant-based meat substitutes, would be worth almost $12 billion by 2023, up from just under $10 billion in 2018.

The Nasdaq-listed food giant is now bringing its signature Beyond Burgers into Freshippo (“Hema” in Chinese), Alibaba’s supermarket chain with a 30-minute delivery service that recorded a spike in orders during the pandemic as people avoided in-person shopping.

The tie-up will potentially promote the animal-free burgers to customers of Freshippo’s more than 200 stores across China’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. They will first be available in 50 stores in Shanghai and arrive in more locations in September.

“We know that retail will be a critical part of our success in China, and we’re pleased to mark this early milestone within a few months of our market entry,” Ethan Brown, founder and chief executive officer of Beyond Meat, said in a statement.

Plant-based meat has a long history in China, serving the country’s Buddhist communities before the diet emerged as a broader urban lifestyle in more recent times. Amid health concerns, the Chinese government told citizens to cut back on meat consumption in 2016. The middle-class urban dwellers have also been embracing fake meat products as they respond to climate change.

“Regardless of international or local brands, Chinese consumers are now only seeing the first generation of plant-based offerings. Purchases today are mostly limited to forward-thinking experimenters,” Matilda Ho, founder and managing director of Bits x Bites, a venture capital firm targeting the Chinese food-tech industry, told TechCrunch. “The good news is China’s per capita consumption of plant-based protein is amongst the highest in the world.”

“For these offerings to scale to mass consumers or attract repeat purchases from early adopters, there is tremendous opportunity to improve on the mouthfeel, flavor, and how these products fit into the Chinese palate. To appeal to health-conscious flexitarians or vegetarians, there is also plenty of room to improve the nutritional profile in comparison to the conventional tofu or Buddhist mimic meat,” Ho added.

The fake meat market is already rife with competition. Domestic incumbent Qishan Foods has been around since 1993. Hong Kong’s OmniPork and Alpha Foods were quick to capture the new appetite across the border. Nascent startup Zhenmeat is actively seeking funding and touting its understanding of the “Chinese taste.”

Meanwhile, Beyond Meat’s rival back home Impossible Foods may be having a harder time cracking the market, as its genetically-modified soy ingredient could cause concerns among health-conscious Chinese.