Health care AI company Harrison.ai has undertaken one of Australia's largest ever Series B funding rounds securing $129 million to power its growth ambitions, with new backers Sonic Healthcare (ASX: SHL) and I-MED Radiology Network taking part alongside existing investors Blackbird Ventures and Skip Capital.
The funding round led by Horizons Ventures will go towards scaling global healthcare system capacity through the rapid commercialisation of clinical artificial intelligence applications, rapidly expanding Harrison.ai's 250-plus team of AI data scientists and engineers, while expanding into new areas of healthcare.
This includes a joint venture with Sonic Healthcare to co-develop and commercialise new solutions in pathology - a sector that faces a stark skills shortage with the number of US pathologists decreasing 18 per cent in the decade to 2017 despite an increase in workload.
Harrison.ai co-founder Dr Aengus Tran says building comprehensive AI solutions for pathology will help scale the capacity of diagnostic care across the globe.
"Sonic Healthcare’s deep clinical experience and understanding combined with our proven AI methodologies will create a powerful new way to support clinicians to more effectively and efficiently diagnose patients in pathology," says Dr Tran, who co-founded Harrison.ai with his brother Dimitry Tran in Sydney in 2018.
The global pathology giant's CEO Dr Colin Goldschmidt says the formation of the JV is an exciting moment in Sonic Healthcare’s progression as a healthcare company. He describes Harrison.ai as a "smart, agile, and medically led company with a proven track record in the healthcare AI space".
"The partnership with Sonic and our deep healthcare experience and global reach represents a synergistic union and a powerful force in healthcare AI," he says.
The Sydney-based health tech scale-up has already developed clinical AI solutions in imaging and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) that already impact more than 50,000 patients each month and are approved for clinical use in Australia, UK, Europe and other countries.
Partnerships include its work with Virtus Health (ASX: VRT) on its 'Precision Fertility' platform, and in early 2020 Harrison.ai teamed up with I-MED Radiology Network to form Annalise.ai for developing radiology AI solutions - that venture's signature product Annalise CXR was developed and commercialised in just 18 months to become the world’s most comprehensive AI clinical decision-support solution for chest X-rays.
Annalise CXR was featured in the peer-reviewed journal Lancet Digital Health as capable of detecting an unprecedented 124 findings in chest X-rays, and Sonic is now implementing the solution at more than 100 radiology clinics around Australia.
Harrison.ai was bootstrapped until its first $29 million raise led by Blackbird in December 2019, which was joined by Horizon, Skip and Ramsay Health Care (ASX: RHC).
"Harrison.ai‘s distinct approach to AI healthcare has enabled the team to commercialise market leading solutions at record pace with its partners," says Chris Liu from Horizons Ventures.
"We look forward to working closely with the team and our partners to help augment the capacity of healthcare systems globally."
The company emphasises capacity in many areas of clinical diagnosis and treatment is under strain due to ongoing increases in healthcare demand contrasted with skills shortages and pandemic-related backlogs in clinical demand.
Developed healthcare systems such as the United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US) face massive shortages in skilled radiologists and clinicians, with significantly more staff required to meet surging demand for diagnosis. Despite this shortage, there is a stark disparity to other markets — the US has approximately 11 radiologists per 100,000 people compared to just 0.35 radiologists per 100,000 people in Kenya.
This increased demand for equitable, accurate and effective healthcare delivery requires complementary systems like Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide human-aided diagnosis and help relieve some of this disparity.
"Delivering equitable, effective and accurate healthcare to more people is a critical part of our mission at Harrison.ai, and as we emerge from the pandemic that mission is more important than ever," says Aengus Tran, who is also Harrison.ai's CEO.
"With our model and methodology now proven across multiple clinical areas, we are in a position to expand to new clinical areas and deliver on our mission with the support of our investors and partners."
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