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Softbank leads $70M investment in Japanese medtech startup detecting cancer using AI

AI Medical Service
Image credits: AI Medical Service

AI Medical Service Inc (AIM), a Tokyo-based medtech company that uses deep learning technology to develop endoscopic AI, announced that it has secured 8B JPY ($70M) funding led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. 

Other existing investors, including Globis Capital Partners, World Innovation Lab (WiL), and Incubate Fund, participated. 

The AI Medical Service will use the funds to accelerate the global adoption of endoscopic AI and finance the development of an in-house cloud-based platform.

What does AI Medical Service solve?

Globally, approximately 30% of cancer mortality can be attributed to gastrointestinal (GI) cancer, the largest of any cancer grouping in the world and Japan as well. 

Many cases of GI cancer can be treated if they are detected at an early stage, but the prospects for recovery diminish in the case of late-stage detection. Currently, only an endoscopic exam can detect GI cancer at its early stages. 

Notably, Japan leads the world in endoscopic diagnosis and treatment, providing firms and researchers access to large amounts of high-quality data. 

AI Medical Service, a Japanese company is working to promote the early detection of cancer and save lives globally by increasing the accuracy of endoscopic diagnostics with AI. 

Tomohiro Tada, CEO of AI Medical Service says, “Japan is the origin of GI endoscopy, and 98% of the global market share is occupied by Japanese manufacturers (Olympus, Fuji Film, Pentax). The technical skill of Japanese endoscopists is regarded as the world’s best, and more than 17 million high-quality endoscopic exams are conducted in Japan each year. Therefore, training AI using large amounts of high-quality Japanese data is sure to lead to meaningful global innovation.” 

Aims to detect gastric cancer

Founded by Tomohiro Tada and Yamauchi Yoshiyuki in 2017, AI Medical Service develops AI software to help detect gastric cancer. 

The company is on a mission to develop a system that supports endoscopists’ diagnosis of the digestive tract, including the esophagus, stomach, and intestines.

AIM engages in joint research with more than 100 medical institutions. By bringing endoscopic AI to real-world clinical settings as soon as possible, AIM aims to reduce the number of missed cancer diagnoses and save lives globally.

AIM says that its AI software uses numerous training data to analyse endoscope images to support endoscopists.

Tada says, “At present, we are conducting joint research with more than 100 top-class medical institutions in Japan (including the Cancer Institute Hospital). We also have a track record of publishing world-first papers on topics such as the classification of Helicobacter pylori, the detection of early gastric cancer, and the detection of early esophageal cancer. Given our track record of success, we view ourselves to be the global leader in developing endoscopic AI.”

Investor

SoftBank Vision Fund is one of the largest technology investment funds in the world. It has invested $129B in the AI industry from the time of its inception until the end of 2021.

Yasuyuki Imai, Representative Director & COO, SoftBank Corp says, “A 5G-based joint trial conducted last year marked the beginning of our collaboration with AIM. Now, with this new investment from SoftBank Vision Fund 2, we at SoftBank Corp. hope to further deepen our partnership with AIM to digitally transform Japan’s medical industry. We fully identify with CEO Tomohiro Tada’s vision of an endoscopic medical platform that enables patients to receive world-class endoscopic care anywhere by networking multiple endoscopy laboratories. Through our partnership with AIM, we will work to bring his vision closer to reality so the development of endoscopic medicine helps save patients’ lives around the world.”

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