London: A UK start-up that enables users to consult a doctor via mobile app is set to secure new investment to develop a version powered by artificial intelligence. Babylon Health said that it had received $25 million in a funding round led by AB Kinnevik, the Swedish investment group.
The round will also include Demis Hassabis and Mustafa Suleyman, the founders of Deepmind, the AI group bought by Google for £400 million, who are advisers for the company. People familiar with the matter said the fund-raising would value the three-year-old start-up at about $100 million.
The investment comes as technology groups display increasing ambitions to disrupt the health care sector. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has created Calico, a biotech subsidiary, that will tackle diseases.
Babylon is a subscription health service which has 150,000 registered users. Sixty companies including Citigroup, Sky and MasterCard have incorporated it into their employee health plans. The start-up said it was also in talks with the NHS.
The app enables users to video conference one of 100 doctors employed by the company full-time. The system, which provides a health monitoring facility, also allows people to book appointments and order medical tests.
Babylon said its new investment would allow it to hire scientists and computer engineers to develop the AI version of its app.
Ali Parsa, chief executive and founder, demonstrated a prototype to the ‘Financial Times’. After the user speaks into a phone, the computer system asks a series of questions about symptoms before determining a course of action.
“We are trying to figure out a way to get most of the health care people need straight to them on their mobile phone,” he said. The aim was to “do with health care what Google did with information”.
Parsa, a former Goldman Sachs banker, founded Circle Holdings, a private health company, and was chief executive until 2012.
He said Babylon did not want to replace doctors with machines but to create an AI offering to act as a screening service, directing patients to human professionals when necessary. Babylon said its AI system will be released to users within two months.
The company did not disclose its financial performance but said its business model was for customers to pay £4.99 a month. It did not say how much it charges business customers or how much it would charge the NHS.
Other new investors include funds related to BXR global investment group, Hoxton Ventures, a London-based venture capital firm; Hoxton Ventures; and Richard Reed, Adam Balon and John Wright, co-founders of Innocent Drinks.
— Financial Times