September 13, 2018 / 4:21 PM / a month ago

Babylon Healthcare targets chronic disease in $100 million expansion

LONDON (Reuters) - Artificial intelligence company Babylon Health said it would invest $100 million to double its team of engineers and scientists in London and expand its capabilities to manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and depression.

Babylon has developed an AI-powered platform that it says can assess symptoms and diagnose illness to the same capability as a family physician — a claim it supported by setting the technology the same exam questions that doctors are required to take.

Founder and chief executive Ali Parsa said the next step was using the technology to assist with the management of chronic diseases, benefiting patients and doctors alike.

“The more difficult part is what we have already done, which is to turn the machine into a generalist,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “Management of each of these diseases now is easier because you have so many apps, but the problem is they do not connect.”

Babylon was building technology able to assess and monitor a chronic disease in the context of a patient’s overall health, including the presence of other chronic conditions, he added.

Babylon’s AI, which typically interacts with the patient through a smartphone app, will do a health assessment and then create a personalized treatment plan, monitoring progress through multiple devices connected Babylon’s platform, he said.

“Artificial Intelligence has the potential to improve the capacity of our healthcare professionals to safely care for more patients, whilst allowing them to maintain meaningful patient-carer interactions as well as a more realistic work-life balance,” he said.

Babylon, which was founded in 2013, will recruit around 500 people to build the new capabilities, taking its team in London to more than 1,000.

Parsa said the company, which has signed partnerships with companies including Tencent, Samsung and most recently TELUS Health, was hiring as fast as it could, and he hoped to have the expanded team in place within about nine months.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by David Stamp

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