In 2020, there was 2.3 million Women with breast cancer and 685,000 deaths globally. As of the end of 2020, the World Health Organization has estimated that there are 7.8 million Surviving women diagnosed with breast cancer in the past five years, making it the most common type of cancer in the world. There are more disability-corrected life years lost by women to breast cancer globally than for any other type of cancer.
Unlike some cancers that have Infection-related causesThere are no known viral or bacterial infections associated with the development of breast cancer. For women, in particular, increasing age, obesity, harmful use of alcohol, family history of breast cancer, history of radiation exposure, reproductive history (such as the age at which menstruation began and age at first pregnancy), tobacco use, postmenopausal hormone Treatment, all factors that increase the risk of developing breast cancer at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, for women, their gender is the strongest risk factor for breast cancer, roughly less than 1% of breast cancers occur in men.
vacantis a startup that is building a smart platform that infuses the latest artificial intelligence technology into routine breast exams, and is on a mission to catch every deadly breast cancer early.
Today the company announced its $4.5 million Series A extension led by Sixth Partners The influencer investor included the EQT Foundation, as well as the family office behind one of Germany’s largest groups of radiology providers, Med360, which invested privately after seeing Vara’s impact on its workflow. Its newest investors have joined forces with OMERS Ventures, Merantix (Europe’s first venture studio for artificial intelligence backed by limited partners such as SoftBank), Think.Health, Soleria Capital and Plug and Play in supporting the cancer screening company.
Arnd Kaltofen-Ehmann, Managing Partner at Vi Partners, is a strong supporter of Vara’s mission. “Vara continues to lay the groundwork for how AI and machine learning are transforming screening workflows. From its unique approach to technology and AI to its deep integration with German centers, and its strong partnerships with international providers, Vara is an innovative startup with a big purpose.” It is already backed by a growing body of peer-reviewed evidence and supported by clinical and health experts, and through its groundbreaking prospective study along with this latest investment, Vara is well positioned to achieve its life-saving mission.”
Founded in Germany, Vara already operates in Germany and Greece and recently announced two major partnerships in Greece and Mexico, which will make its technology available to more than 30 million women. In Greece, the company entered into a partnership with MITERAthe largest private hospital in Greece, and in Mexico large employers, such as the automobile company JAC or the Latin American food company GAT, buy the offerings of Mamotest and Vara, as well as large NGOs such as ProMujer.
Better cancer screening for 1 billion women around the world
The platform has also tripled the number of mammograms screened on its platform and is on a mission to provide one billion women worldwide with access to better screening, particularly in underfunded areas, for early breast cancer detection. Currently, more than 80,000 mammograms are evaluated per month with Vara.
800 million women are currently at risk of developing breast cancer, and many of them will not get proper screening. We envision a world in which cancer screening is accessible to everyone, regardless of geography or background,” shares Jonas Muff, Vara founder.
To achieve this, MAF and the team developed a breast cancer screening platform with artificial intelligence at its core. It allows local radiology clinics to make better use of their existing mammography equipment to provide high-quality, reliable breast cancer screening at significantly lower costs – proven by leading and globally accepted clinical evidence.
Vara’s team’s initial goal was to tackle the problem holistically – something needed to create breast cancer screening in a cost-effective and scalable way: they do this by helping their partners raise awareness, provide education for more women, and remove barriers that prevent them from accessing effective screening. , while the Vara platform navigates the entire screening workflow, from appointments to post-screening follow-up (including monitoring of real-world evidence).
A collaborative approach between AI and radiologists
Furthermore, the referral path for their AI decision (published in Lancet Digital Health and developed in Germany, as well European Journal of Radiology) supports their partner’s radiologists, so they can examine more women and achieve better efficacy. The study (the results published in The Lancet July 2022) aimed to propose a solution for the safe clinical adoption of AI systems in breast cancer screening, “that is, adopting a collaborative approach for the AI radiologist that combines screening with high-accuracy cancer detection and foregoes an independent approach.” AI aims to replace the radiologist, but with the risk of deteriorating sensitivity.” This two-part system includes “screening screening and a safety net for predicting positive cancer tests to maintain a high degree of sensitivity for cancer detection, improve screening accuracy for radiologists, adapt to screening requirements, and allow radiologists to reduce their workload without giving up their final oversight.” “.
Fara’s main clients are women at high risk of developing breast cancer who need a mammogram at least once every two years but (in most parts of the world) do not get them yet.
“In Germany, we work with 30% of all screening centers and have been able to show that we can find 42% of all missed interval cancers and reduce the workload by 73%. In MexicoWe are working with a strategic, mission-driven partner like Mamotest to deliver the platform faster and to more women, and have already launched five mammography screening clinics,” adds Maf.
MAF highlights that many health systems today wish to implement population-based breast cancer screening programmes, but that implementing such programs based on European guidelines is very expensive, and requires specialized screening experts very rarely worldwide. He also highlighted the number of radiology clinics that often have mammography scanners (for asymptomatic women) that are not frequently used and thus unprofitable. These clinics lack the radiologists and processes needed to ramp up screening work and do not effectively raise awareness in their communities.
Furthermore, women’s insurance plans often do not cover preventive mammography screening, resulting in higher screening costs, which the individual must pay. “Many women also lack confidence in the health care system and have not received enough education about the importance of regular breast cancer screening.”
Supporting more women in low- and middle-income countries
Ultimately, the company’s vision is that breast cancer screening is made available to every woman at risk. “For this, we will need to have the health systems and agencies that fund the screening (such as insurance companies) on board which will help us roll out breast cancer screening screening at scale. We will also need to be able to demonstrate the economic return on investment that we can provide to the systems of care. health – which requires future evidence in the real world,” explains Maf.
In Germany – where he and his team already operate with 30% of the screening market – Vara . launched PRAIM . studyIn partnership with the University of Lübeck, the first of its kind worldwide and the largest prospective study ever conducted, with the aim of evaluating the use of an AI application and workflow software to support radiologists for breast cancer screening. By June 2023, they will have covered 400,000 women.
“The second North Star for us now is to continue to reach more women in Mexico, hundreds of women are screened every week and we are very focused on launching more clinics and growing the ecosystem in Mexico, joined by large companies and NGOs like ProMujer. We only launched in Mexico this year but we’re already seeing exciting interest and support coming from large international companies,” shares Muff.
The goal for 2023 is to launch it in Egypt and India, as well as expand its AI technology to other modalities, starting with 3D mammography (computed tomography) to provide the best possible screening quality for women with high-density breast tissue.
This international expansion is key to VARA’s mission because, despite the fact that breast cancer is well treatable if caught in its early stages, millions are left behind due to a lack of effective and regulated programmes. Of the 700,000 global deaths from breast cancer each year, about 70% occur in Low and middle income countriesThis is partly due to the inability to diagnose early due to a lack of technology, awareness, and specialized radiologists. Ultimately, if breast cancer can be caught early, (1) survival rates will increase by more than 60% When diagnosed in the first stage compared to the later stages (2) the costs of treatment will be lower and less invasive, and (3) the quality of life will increase significantly.
“Today’s funding announcement, in which we welcome esteemed investors in the health technology, radiology, and impact-focused sectors at Vara, speaks to the success we have seen in recent months, as well as our ambition. We are on a mission to make data-driven breast cancer screening accessible to all, ubiquitous, getting cancer early, and this funding extension helps make this mission a reality,” concludes Maf.