German pharmaceuticals giant Bayer has acquired an Edinburgh digital health start-up that specialises in artificial intelligence-powered medical imaging.
Blackford Analysis, which was acquired for an undisclosed but thought to be a ‘significant’ sum, combines AI with health imaging technologies to improve health outcomes.
Following the acquisition, Blackford will continue to operate as an independent organisation on an arm’s-length basis to preserve its entrepreneurial culture. It will remain headquartered in Scotland and no changes are expected to the management and staff.
Spun out from the University of Edinburgh in 2010 and still headquartered in the city, Blackford has a presence in the UK and US focused on providing healthcare providers with tailored tools and services to unlock the value of medical imaging AI, driving efficiencies and improving patient outcomes.
The company will remain accountable to advance its technology, channel partnerships and clinical application portfolio while benefiting from the experience, infrastructure and reach of Bayer as a global pharmaceutical company. The acquisition is expected to close later this year, pending the satisfaction of customary closing conditions.
Blackford has a number of strategic partnerships with blue-chip companies as well as innovative medical imaging AI providers to develop and commercialise technology and sells to international markets. The team’s expertise and success to date were important factors in Bayer’s acquisition, bolstering its position in the space.
In 2020, Blackford and Bayer collaborated through a development and licence agreement that laid the foundation for Bayer’s recently launched medical imaging platform, Calantic™ Digital Solutions.
The overall global medical imaging AI sector is expected to continue growing dynamically, reaching $1.36 billion by 2026. Innovation powered by AI is needed more than ever to help combat the increased demand for medical imaging to detect diseases and to guide optimised patient treatment pathways.
Blackford founder and CEO, Ben Panter, said: “Blackford exists to improve the lives of patients and populations by unlocking the adoption and benefits of medical imaging AI and we explored a number of funding options to expand the company to deliver this mission.
“Bayer’s offer allows us freedom to continue to deliver that mission as an independent, arms-length company along with all the strength and support of an experienced life science partner.
“I’m extremely proud of everything our team has achieved and look forward to continuing to expand our partnerships across the industry.
“I’d like to acknowledge our investors’ unwavering support over the last twelve years, and I’m delighted to be returning value that can be reinvested in the next generation of entrepreneurial companies in Scotland.”
Blackford has been backed by angel investor Archangels, as well as the University of Edinburgh’s venture investment fund, Old College Capital, Scottish Enterprise, Thairm Bio, and Tricapital. Archangels has provided £6m of investment to support Blackford’s growth since 2012.
Stefan Oelrich, member of the board of management, Bayer AG, and president of Bayer’s pharmaceutical division, said: “We are pleased to join forces with Blackford and their exceptional team to optimally utilise our combined expertise in healthcare technology with the aim to deliver true value to radiologists and their teams for the benefit of their patients. Adding Blackford and its AI technology to our radiology portfolio secures Bayer an excellent position in the fastest growing segment within the overall global radiology industry.”
Catherine Martin, vice-principal of corporate services at the University of Edinburgh, said: “The university is proud to have supported Dr Ben Panter and Blackford Analysis from the time of the company’s spin out from our Institute of Astronomy in 2010. By applying technology originally developed for stargazing to the medical sphere, Blackford is a fantastic example of how university research can be translated into real-world solutions. This acquisition is testament to the brilliant Blackford team and supportive investor group led by Archangels.”