Funding pours into cancer treatment, crop stress and credit companies

12 May 2017

Image: CI Photos/Shutterstock

In a busy few days of investing, Guardant Health’s massive push to sequence the cancer DNA of 1m patients saw a surge in funding.

Guardant Health is undergoing one of the most wide-reaching medical projects in recent years, after securing $350m to help sequence the tumour DNA of 1m cancer patients.

To be achieved over the next five years, Guardant’s supporters include serial investor SoftBank, notable for putting significant sums into areas as varied as self-driving buses in Japan and VR start-ups in the UK.

Advancements in cancer

Guardant expects this patient data to fuel fundamental advancements across cancer care, and accelerate the development of blood-based tests for early cancer detection.

“We believe that conquering cancer is, at its core, a big-data problem, and researchers have been data-starved,” said Helmy Eltoukhy, Guardant Health co-founder and CEO.

“Our launch of the world’s first commercial comprehensive liquid biopsy sparked a boom in cancer data acquisition.

“Every physician who orders one of our tests and every patient whose tumour DNA we sequence add to this larger mission by improving our understanding of this complex disease.

“With this ambitious five-year effort, we intend to accelerate this progress and provide a much-needed infusion of data into the field.”

Moves in fintech

Elsewhere, Kreditech, a start-up focusing on digital consumer credit using machine learning-based underwriting, recently secured €110m from payments company PayU.

This represents the biggest investment yet into a German fintech start-up, with PayU clearly keen on branching out.

Payments and credit should really go together, as evidenced by the impressive growth of iZettle in Europe and South America in recent years. Starting as a payments company, iZettle’s data on its customers meant it could predict cash flows and therefore evaluate the potential for lending.

This Kreditech announcement follows a successful pilot programme managed by both companies, offering Polish consumers access to credit “in a real-time online process”.

The duo claim that more than €10m was issued during the 12-month pilot programme.

“We are excited to build a leading innovative online consumer-lending player in high-growth markets,” said Laurent Le Moal, CEO at PayU.

“With our substantial investment, we deepen our relationship with the industry-leading management team at Kreditech, and help to bring pioneering machine learning and AI technology to the many high-growth markets around the world that need better access to financial services.”

Precision agriculture

Finally, in the US, California-based Ceres Imaging has raised $5m for its crop stress software.

Ceres uses cameras, sensors and software to pinpoint crop stress in the field for farmers, allowing for a more accurate plan of action when applying herbicides, pesticides and irrigation.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic