Deep Lens, a Columbus, Ohio-based startup developing a precision medicine software suite, today announced that it’s raised $14 million in series A funding led by Northpond Ventures, with participation from existing investors Rev1 Ventures, Sierra Ventures, and Tamarind-Hill Partners. It brings the startup’s total raised to $17.5 million, following a $3.2 million seed round in October 2018, and will fuel a fresh round of hiring in its service, sales, and marketing divisions and the further development of its platform, said CEO Dave Billiter.

“Since our inception, we’ve benefited from a tremendous group of investors, which now includes the world class team at Northpond Ventures,” Billiter said. “This series A financing is further validation of the value of our industry-changing approach to digital pathology in delivering the right cancer diagnoses faster and accelerating oncology trial recruitment and timelines.”

“With this additional capital,” president and cofounder Simon Arkell added, “we will move to quickly leverage our successes in the pathology industry and apply a highly disruptive approach to patient identification in clinical trials, one of the most expensive and time-intensive issues faced by the pharmaceutical industry.”

Deep Lens was founded by Billiter, Arkell, and former Cardinal Health director TJ Bowen. Billiter, an Ohio native and graduate of Ohio Northern University and Columbus Southern University, joined Nationwide Children’s Hospital in 2004, where he oversaw the creation of an AI-driven oncology studies suite that has been used by clinicians at 65 institutions in eight countries. It served as the foundation of Deep Lens’ free-of-charge tool set: Virtual Imaging for Pathology Education and Research, or VIPER.

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VIPER is a full-stack solution comprising an AI image detection suite, feedback tools, cloud storage, and APIs for integration with hardware and apps, designed to facilitate peer-to-peer collaboration and clinical research. In clinical trial recruitment scenarios, it can flag eligible patients at the time of their diagnosis, helping to fast-track enrollment.

The ultimate aim, Billiter said, is to provide users with “fast and accurate” information and expert consultation toward better patient outcomes and clinical research.

“VIPER has always been about empowering and enabling the pathology community, allowing them to focus on the nuanced diagnoses and case-specific details that require many years of specialized medical training,” he said. “It’s incredibly exciting to … leverage the evolution in machine vision technology as we launch VIPER globally, free of charge to benefit all pathologists and, in turn, their patients.”

Deep Lens is vying for a slice of the anticipated $35 billion health care cloud computing market against startups like PathAI, which employs machine learning techniques to improve diagnostic accuracy, and Inspirata and Proscia, both of which develop products that digitize and automate pathology workflows. But unlike some of its competitors, the startup isn’t just targeting hospitals and clinics — it’s already in talks with pharmaceutical companies that hope to use VIPER to access and identify trial candidates.

“Northpond is excited to support Deep Lens. The VIPER platform and its unique distribution is a novel approach to the problem of patient recruitment in clinical trials,” said Northpond founder and CEO Michael P. Rubin. “We are proud to begin working with the current investors to help Deep Lens accomplish their clinical and commercial goals.”

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