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Happy Wednesday, readers.
Komodo Health has raised $50 million in a funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz, the firms tell Fortune. Komodo, a five-year old startup, will use the money to scale up its digital health ambitions—with the ultimate aim of leveraging a health care “map” to fuel everything from more effective drug development to gleaning insights about health disparities across the country.
“Over the course of the last five years, we have taken a thesis and really put it into action,” Komodo co-founder and CEO Arif Nathoo tells Fortune. “We’ve had north of 100% year-over-year growth, but we’re not burning a ton of cash.”
That combination sparked the interest of investors focused on the biopharmaceutical space—especially those interested in leveraging health care data to improve patient outcomes while boosting company’s bottom lines.
“It was clear to me that Komodo had basically built a better mousetrap when it comes to health care data analytics,” Andreessen Horowitz partner Jorge Conde tells Fortune. “There’s a reason 19 out of the 20 top biopharma companies have already signed on to use Komodo’s services.”
Komodo takes data from hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, insurers, and other firms across the medical industry and then deploys artificial intelligence to suss out the most useful nuggets. This type of analysis could, for instance, give doctors and hospitals insights about why certain patient demographics have worse health outcomes.
“We provide this ability into millions of patient journeys in the U.S. and use that to better predict the future,” says Nathoo.
Komodo co-founder and president Web Sun says he hopes the company’s tech will one day be the equivalent of Amazon Web Services for health care. “AWS became the platform for everyone to do what they’re doing,” Sun tells Fortune.
“If there’s a way for us to shorten the cycle to insight, that’s what spells success for us. Instead of spending five years getting the data, companies can leverage our software and platform to get this information and insight much sooner.”
Read on for the day’s news.
Google AI may be just as good (and even better) at spotting breast cancer as doctors. A new study published in the journal Nature (it should be noted, from Google Health researchers and a bevy of experts from Imperial College London and other universities) finds that Google's AI was able to identify breast cancer through de-identified mammograms with more effectiveness than a regular old doctor. In fact, the study found that the algorithm was able to suss out cancer with both fewer false positives and false negatives. The use of AI in radiology and image scanning appears to be the most promising use of the technology in the real world to date. (Nature)
Lung cancer deaths are falling, and drugs may be a major reason. Cancer death rates fell 2.2% between 2016 and 2017—a massive year-over-year decline driven largely by a sharp drop in lung cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). One driving factor may be a new generation of drugs that specifically target lung cancer (alongside continued declines in smoking rates)—and since the data only extends to 2017, the lung cancer death rate could actually fall even more, as several treatments have been approved to tackle lung cancer in the past few years. Merck's immunotherapy Keytruda was a pioneer in this space. (Reuters)
THE BIG PICTURE
Study suggests talc powder isn't a significant risk factor for ovarian cancer. Talc powder manufacturers have been in the hot seat over allegations that popular products used for feminine hygiene may be linked to ovarian cancer. A new study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), however, finds that there isn't a significant risk of ovarian cancer from talc use. The study took data from more than 250,000 women (a so-called "pooled analysis") about their use of talc products—although it doesn't break down exactly which products the women used. (NPR)
Vaping Industry Gets a Minty Respite from Trump's Flavor Ban, by Associated Press
Layoffs Loom at Three SoftBank-Backed Startups, by Polina Marinova
Congress Focuses on Iran and Impeachment as Health Care Takes a Back Seat, by Nicole Goodkind
Facebook Deepfake Video Ban May Set Off 'Cat and Mouse' Game, by Alyssa Newcomb