Bessemer launches a seed fund for startups applying machine learning to health

Seeing a tremendous opportunity to leverage machine learning technologies in the healthcare industry, Bessemer Venture Partners is launching a $10 million early-stage seed program to back new startups.

Led by the firm’s celebrity healthcare investor, Steve Kraus (seriously: the guy has his own podcast), and its head of investments in Israel, Adam Fisher, the Deep Health Seed Program will place bets of anywhere between $100,000 and $2 million into early-stage companies using machine learning to solve problems in healthcare.

It’s no exaggeration to say that machine learning can transform the healthcare industry entirely. The proliferation of data brought on by the increasing digitization of workflows in hospitals, patient information, the popularization of wearables and mapping of the human genome means that everything from the health of populations to the genetic composition of our cells can be monitored — and potentially managed through the application of data.

Bessemer has already placed several bets on this hypothesis, including its investment in Qventus (a hospital management service that we’d covered last month). And the firm has a long history of investing in healthcare, including early bets on companies like  Allena Pharmaceuticals, Docent Health and publicly traded companies including OvaScience, Verastem and Flex Pharma.

Some examples of areas where the firm will spend time looking for new investment opportunities include workflow automation startups like Qventus; digital diagnostics companies that look to augment or replace human diagnosticians with algorithms that are better able to identify potential anomalies; predictive and programmatic tools to measure and monitor population health are also on the horizon. Finally, both drug discovery and computational medicine will be improved with machine learning, and treatment regimes, too, will find themselves transformed by intelligence and automation.

With the new initiative, Bessemer is also taking the covers off of its first investment — in a company called Subtle Medical.

Founded by Stanford doctoral candidate Enhao Gong and Stanford professor Greg Zaharchuk, an MD/PhD focused on stroke and neurological disorders, Subtle Medical is focused on improving the quality and speed of medical imaging exams by enhancing the ability to use lower-quality scans — obviating the need for repeat imaging procedures. 

The company claims it can speed four times as many patients through MRI and PET exams, which both increases the number of patients that can be scanned and reduces patient exposure to radiation. 

“The opportunities for AI/ML in healthcare are extremely broad,” according to Kraus. “Healthcare is the largest segment of the economy, and nearly everywhere you look AI/ML can be applied to improve the cost, quality, and speed of the industry.”