Babylon Health, a U.K.-based startup that has created a range of AI-based health facilities, including a chatbot used by the U.K. National Health Service to assist diagnose ailments, has revealed a huge investment it intends to use to expand its company to the U.S. and Asia and expand its R&D to diagnose more severe, chronic circumstances. It has closed a funding round of $550 million, worth more than $2 billion in Babylon Health, it announced today.
This is the largest fundraiser ever for digital health service in Europe or the United States, Babylon said.
“Our task at Babylon is to place accessible and affordable healthcare in everyone’s hands-on earth,” Dr. Ali Parsa, Babylon’s founder, and CEO said in a declaration. “This investment will enable us to maximize the worldwide amount of life that we touch. We’ve got to go a long way and still have a lot to deliver. We are thankful to our investors, associates and 1,500 wonderful Babylonians for enabling us to pursue our mission forward. Chronic circumstances are a growing burden on healthcare affordability worldwide. Our technology offers a strong foundation for a thorough solution, and our researchers, technicians, and clinicians are looking forward to working on it. Partners across the U.S. and Asia have seen important demand. While the healthcare burden is global, the alternatives must be located to satisfy each country’s particular requirements and culture.”
The investment — a Series C — had been the topic of many leaks before today’s announcement, with reports in the latest days suggesting that the investment was between $100 million and $500 million anywhere.
This round brings together a number of strategic and economic investors, including PIF, Munich Re’s ERGO Fund, and renowned investment firms Kinnevik and Vostok New Ventures, as well as the major American health insurance company that reportedly is the Centene Corporation although Babylon did not disclose the name. The round of investment includes the PIF. (Formerly, Demis Hassabis, an AI expert who co-foundedDeepMind, who now belongs to Google, also appears to remain in this round)
This is a big leap for the company that had raised more modest rounds in the past, like three years ago $60 million in investment (it had only raised a total of around £ 72 million before this round). Babylon said that $450 million has already been secured from this recent Series C, with another $50 million agreed to be exercised at a subsequent date, and the rest “soon” closed. (The PIF was a prolific, if contentious, investor in a number of enormous start-ups, such as Uber, and wider investment vehicles, such as SoftBank’s Vision Fund.)
At a time when it seems like a daily event that a fresh business or service is launching using AI to advance health, we are right now. (Babylon Health rivals include MDLive, HealthTap, Push Doctor and many more.) But Babylon has emerged as one of the main players even in that larger trend. Besides his job in the UK. — which involves an NHS service offering to “take over” a user’s local GP connection to remotely diagnose minor ailments, as well as a second-track Babylon Private, paid tier constructed in collaboration with personal insurance company Bupa — it claims other partners include Prudential, Samsung and Telus.
The NHS agreement is an interesting one: many think of the state’s health service as a national treasure, but it has been hit hard by budget issues, the strain of an aging and increasing population, and what sometimes seems like a slow-release attempt to remove some of its most significant and safe facilities and bring more privatization into the mix.
The introduction of AI-based facilities that remove some of the overheads of individuals managing issues that machines can do just as well is one way to remove some of that stress from the system— or so the logic goes, at least. The concept is that it helps prioritize the more pressing and hard issues for individuals and face-to-face conferences by managing some of the smaller issues.
This also provides Babylon (and other digital health professionals) a great chance to break down some of the more persistent healthcare issues, such as offering services in developing economies and distant areas: one of its major attempts alongside rollouts in mature markets such as the UK. Canada was the first to introduce health facilities to digital platforms in Rwanda.
Babylon has grown and says that every day it provides 4,000 clinical consultations, or one patient interaction every 10 seconds. It claims it now covers 4.3 million individuals around the world, with more than 1.2 million digital consultations completed to date, with more than 160,000 appointment scores of five stars.