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Zebra Medical Vision, a computer vision startup focused on health care, today announced that it entered into an agreement to be acquired by a publicly traded firm. The terms — and the acquirer’s name — weren’t disclosed, but Zebra described the firm in its press materials as an “imaging company.” A spokesperson said that the deal was expected to be valued around $200 million.
Computer vision, which deals with algorithms that can gain a high-level understanding of images and videos, is being applied across a range of medical domains. While some research has raised concerns about bias, startups and incumbents are chasing after a market that’s anticipated to be worth $5.31 billion by 2026, according to Verified Market Research. They argue that a shortage of professionals — the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects only a 9% increase in the number of radiologic and MRI technicians by 2028 — will necessitate scalable computer vision technologies. Moreover, the companies claim, computer vision has the potential to reduce labor costs as well as medical imaging workloads.
Zebra Medical was founded in 2014 by Elad Benjamin, Eyal Gura, and Eyal Toledano with the mission of helping patients, physicians, and health care providers use computer vision tools to diagnose bone, liver, lung, and cardiovascular diseases. The startup delivers what it says is one of the largest open clinical research platforms globally, enabling researchers to access millions of anonymized, indexed clinical records for scientific discovery. Zebra also developed an analytics solution that provides algorithms and clinical insight decision support tools in a software-as-a-service-based model to health care institutions.
Beyond this, Zebra hosts a data repository with over two million medical images and has U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-cleared and CE-marked solutions, including seven FDA-cleared and ten CE-marked AI solutions for medical imaging — the most recent being a 3D modeling product for x-ray images used for orthopedic surgery preoperative planning. In July, in partnership with several radiological industry associations, Zebra lobbied the American Medical Association to allow insurers to reimburse clinicians using the company’s AI in vertebral compression fracture (VCF) detection screenings.
Zebra, which had raised $57.4 million in venture capital, counts over 1,100 hospitals, academic institutions, and care providers among its customers, including InterMountain Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson, Nuance, Nvidia, and the University of Oxford.
Ahead of the acquisition, Zebra pivoted from focusing on diagnosis and triage to leveraging its data to help health care systems to evaluate large volumes of patients for chronic conditions. Should the acquisition be completed, CEO Zohar Elhanani says that Zebra will combine its capabilities with the acquiring company’s strategy to “accelerate the population health vision” and make medical imaging “more efficient.”
“Zebra Medical Vision has always operated with the goal of expanding the use of AI in medical imaging to improve health outcomes for patients worldwide,” said Elhanani. “At this time, we understand that that vision is best served by joining forces with a trusted partner with the means to boost our capabilities and propel population health, powered by AI, to the next level. Screening populations to detect and treat chronic disease early has proven to improve outcomes, and we’re thrilled to be taking the helm of the population health transformation in healthcare.”
The pandemic spurred investments in AI across nearly every industry. According to CB Insights’ Q2 2021 report, AI startups attracted record funding — more than $20 billion — despite a drop in deal volume. Health care AI continued to have the largest AI deal share, accounting for 17% of all AI deals ($2.36 billion).
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