Industry leaders anticipate that the use of artificial intelligence in medical imaging will have a substantial clinical impact, ushering in an opportunity to significantly improve decision support in medical image interpretation. In this post, we cover a variety of promising medical imaging applications for AI and machine learning—including diagnosing cancer and brain aneurysms—as well as recent regulatory developments.

Metrics Climb

CB Insights reports that healthcare-related AI investment totaled $1.44 billion in the first half of 2019, putting investment in the space on track to surpass the prior year, in which investment reached $2.5 billion. Much of the attention to date has surrounded applications in medical imaging or radiology.

VC-backed deals and financing to healthcare AI startups, Q1'18 - Q2'19 ($M)

The National Center for Biologic Information (NCBI) reports that publications covering AI in radiology have steeply increased in recent years. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of articles published on the topic ranged from 700 to 800. That’s compared to 100 to 150 articles published between 2007 and 2008. In addition, more than half of recent articles focused on applications related to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT). And January saw the launch of a peer-reviewed journal devoted to AI in medical imaging: Radiology: Artificial Intelligence
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Insights from Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends Report

In the latest edition of the Internet Trends report, Mary Meeker highlights the growing digitization of the healthcare sector, framing that growth squarely in the context of a U.S. healthcare system that—in some cases—has room for further innovation to better meet consumers’ demands or expectations.

Meeker, founder of Bond Capital (and former Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers general partner), launches the report’s healthcare section with an overview of a system that has the highest expenditures on healthcare as a percentage of GDP among other nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Adding in the high number of uninsured individuals, high administrative costs and outcomes that are worse than other developed countries, Meeker makes the case that the digitization of U.S. healthcare is driven by consumer demand for better alternatives.

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The business of animal health has traditionally been dominated by the animal health divisions of big pharma companies. But with Pfizer’s 2013 spin-off of its animal health business, now known as Zoetis, the sector has been undergoing fundamental changes that create new opportunities for investors and innovators.

The success of the Zoetis $2.2 billion IPO, at the time the largest since Facebook, helped inspire the spin-off of Eli Lilly’s animal health business, Elanco, last September, which surged 41 percent on its debut. And, late last year, Bayer announced its intention to leave the animal health business.

In addition to the spin-offs, or in part because of them, there has been substantial consolidation in the animal health space. In 2014, the company that became Elanco acquired Novartis Animal Health. Two years ago, Boehringer Ingelheim acquired Merial, Sanofi’s animal health business, making it, at the time, the second-largest animal health company in the world.


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In its Q1 2019 digital health funding report Rock Health noted that investment in digital health companies leveled off in the first quarter after a record-setting 2018. At $986 million, investment in the first three months of the year was down 21 percent from the fourth quarter of 2018, when it hit $1.2 billion

But the leveling off in funding is more likely linked to an overall decrease in venture investment than to any weakness in the fundamentals of the digital health sector.

The PwC/CB Insights MoneyTree Report Q1 2019 states that global venture funding dropped 22 percent in the first quarter over the last quarter of 2018—from $67 billion in Q4 to $52.2 billion in Q1. U.S. venture investment overall dropped even more in Q1, from $38.7 billion to $24.6, or 36 percent. As a result, digital health venture investment is either even with or outperforming the market as a whole.


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Fenwick’s Sixth Annual Digital Health Investor Summit started on an upbeat note with Rock Health’s Megan Zweig sharing the venture fund’s mid-year funding report. After the uncertainty brought by the 2016 presidential election and the political drama surrounding the future of the Affordable Care Act, it would not seem surprising to see investors take

It looks like the FDA is moving forward—and swiftly—with the digital health plan articulated in FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb's June blog post, previously outlined in this post. Closely tracking the commissioner’s post, the Center for Devices & Radiological Health released an action plan about its Digital Health Program and posted a notice for comment for a Software Pre-Certification Pilot Program.

The pilot program is a first step in the FDA’s reimagined digital health product oversight approach. What makes it stand out from the FDA’s prior regulatory approach is its aim "to develop a new approach toward regulating this technology – by looking first at the software developer or digital health technology developer, not the product."

Under its firm- and developer-based approach, the CDRH could "pre-certify" eligible digital health developers who "demonstrate a culture of quality and organizational excellence based on objective criteria, for example, that they can and do excel in software design, development, and validation (testing). Pre-certified developers could then qualify to be able to market their lower-risk devices without additional FDA review or with a more streamlined premarket review."

In his blog post, the FDA’s Scott Gottlieb announced that in August companies can submit a statement of interest that includes the qualities listed above and request participation in the pilot to FDAPre-CertPilot@fda.hhs.gov. The FDA’s Digital Health Team will evaluate submissions and select companies that reflect the broad range of software developers later in the month. “A critical component is that we will include small and large companies, traditional and non-traditional medtech companies, and products that range in risk,” Gottlieb said in his post. (Read more about how the CDRH is recruiting participants to the pilot program.)


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Last September, we noted that payers and providers were expected to become increasingly active digital health strategic investors given their challenges to improve margins and outcomes.

While there were only three investments by payer/providers in the second half of 2016, we saw a notable uptick in investment activity in the first quarter of 2017, when

If your work involves life sciences dealmaking, you know it’s the time of year to start firming up your plans for the week of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. In the last 10 years, the second week of January in San Francisco has evolved from a J.P. Morgan private meeting for healthcare investors to a week

Investors are increasingly interested in companies with technologies that will be subject to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation.

Until recently, some investors shied away from companies targeting the regulated space out of concern that the regulatory landscape created too much risk. However, thanks in part to new guidance from the FDA regarding the