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The company's AI-based platform has seen increased interest during the COVID pandemic
COVID-19 rapidly changed the way Americans work: in February, the number of Americans working remotely was just 3.4 percent, but by early April, over 60 percent of Americans were working from home. Sadly, not everyone is able to that, with jobs that force them to put themselves at risk during the pandemic.
Paige is a company helping change that for one group: by using artificial intelligence, it can help pathologists diagnose and treat cancer and, right now, it's seeing a boon as it offers them a chance to still do their jobs while not having to go into the lab.
"Whereas a lot of people have been able to work from home, it hasn't been true for anybody in pathology, because they still have to go in and look under a microscope, look at tissue and get physical slides that have been handled by 10 different people. Suddenly there's been this incredible demand for digital infrastructure and enterprise imaging that allows them to be able to work remotely, to be able to work on a digital slide viewing system that’s high performance, can work anywhere," Leo Grady, Ph.D., CEO of Paige, told me in an interview.
"The fact is, the demand is there on the clinical side and commercial labs in the biopharma world. And there's just an enormous focus on digital health right now, on remote work, on software and computational approaches for medicine in general. And so, that's just created an enormous interest."
With its software suddenly in high demand, the company announced on Monday that it raised an additional $20 million in Series B funding, just three months after taking $5 million from Goldman Sachs Merchant Banking Division.
Goldman Sachs once again invested in this latest round, adding $15 million to the money it had already put into Paige, while previous investor Healthcare Venture Partners also reinvested, adding another $5 million. With the initial $45 million Series B round the company raised in December, the $5 million it took in April and now this latest $20 million, Paige's total Series B round now stands at $70 million, while it total capital raised is now over $95 million.
Founded in 2017 by Dr. Thomas Fuchs and colleagues from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the name Paige is an acronym for "Pathology AI Guidance Engine."
The company allows pathologists to more accurately diagnose and treat cancer through the use of artificial intelligence by offering them the ability to take a picture of a slide and then have a computer identify all the patterns in that tissue while matching it to a database of cancer slides. This is in contrast to how a pathologist's job usually works, in which they receive a piece of tissue, which they'll look at under a microscope; if they see something that doesn't look right, they might call over a colleague or get a second opinion in a few days or a week.
Along with its investments in Paige, Goldman has also partnered with the company; David Castelblanco, Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, joined the Board of Directors in April, while R. Martin Chavez joined the board in January after serving at Goldman Sachs for 19 years in different capacities, including CIO, CFO, and Co-Head of Securities.
"Goldman’s been amazing. Really, they have so much perspective, and so many different resources they can draw on internationally and domestically to really help us guide the business and make the right investments at the right time. So, it's really everything from helping us with market access to development. They have specialists that have worked with us on security, on cloud cost cutting, really up and down the board, and they’ve been incredibly involved and impactful investors," Grady told me.
In fact, Paige wasn't even looking to raise more funding, he said, but it was Goldman that decided to reinvest.
"They definitely wanted to come in and they see the opportunities and they want to place their investments in those areas where they see the most growth. And, to be honest, we were not actively out raising funds. However, they very strongly felt like now is the time to invest. We saw the opportunities, and so for that reason, it really made sense to take this additional investment and accelerate our development."
A large part of this funding will go toward hiring, with the goal of doubling the company's 50 person team by the end of the year. That includes in Paige's home office in New York, as well as in the Bay Area, but remotely as well, including both in the U.S. and internationally.
"Whereas a lot of companies have been scaling back and laying workers off, we're going in the opposite direction by stepping on the gas, and really leaning into the environment to say, ‘the technology that we're building, and we have been building, is exactly suited for the moment that we're in.’ Being able to help bring the whole industry forward," said Grady.
"We're scaling up the efforts both in the digital infrastructure, the enterprise imaging, all of the different AI-based modules that we have for different cancer types, tissue types, as well as our engagement with the biopharma industry, in order to be able to build new computational-based biomarkers and diagnostics for them."
The funding will also go toward international expansion; while Paige is currently in pre-commercial launch, the company has done early access launches in the U.S., Europe and Brazil. It has already received a CE marking in Europe, a certification mark that shows that it has conformed with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area.
"What Europe has done is really gotten ahead of the US not only in terms digital adoption for biology and cancer, but the environment there is easier to move in when it comes to in vitro diagnostics requirements to put clinical products on the market," Grady explained.
"We've been able to move much faster in Europe and particularly in the UK: the NHS right now is heavily investing in digital health and AI, and they're seeing an acute shortage in pathologists, so there's a tremendous amount of investment right now from the government, and an enthusiasm for exactly the kind of technology that Paige is building. So we think it's gonna be a very strong early market for us," Grady explained.
When it comes to operating in Brazil, that's another area where Goldman's connections and expertise have come in handy for Paige.
"Goldman Sachs, specifically, is very involved in the Brazilian healthcare market, particularly in oncology, and so they see a really strong need among some of their partners there to be able to scale up and leverage the kinds of AI-based pathology technology that Paige has built, in order to really service that enormous market efficiently. So, Brazil is also an area where we have a lot of opportunity and we're investing as well."
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