Five venture-capital firms have invested $8.3 million in Proscia Inc., a Philadelphia-based automated medical-test-processing software business started by three recent college grads in a Baltimore dorm room.
The new money "will fuel the development and commercialization of new, clinical artificial intelligence-enabled workflows targeting high-volume, high-impact cancers, the first of which will be available later this year," promising to "greatly enhance pathologists' productivity," Proscia said in a statement.
The lead investor is Flybridge Capital Partners, Boston, whose investments include Codecademy, a developers' school, and Jibo, a "social robot," among others. Other firms backing Proscia's venture capital round include Emerald Development Managers, New York; Fusion Fund, Palo Alto, Calif.; Razor's Edge Ventures, Reston, Va.; and Robin Hood Ventures, Philadelphia.
Flybridge general partner Chip Hazard said in a statement that Proscia is enjoying "unprecedented momentum in the digital pathology space" and has " the potential to change cancer research."
The company, backed by an earlier $2 million in "friends and family" investments and buoyed by early revenues from its cloud-based digital-pathology platform, employs 25 at its headquarters in the BB&T (formerly IBM) tower at 17th and Market in Center City, where the founders moved it after two of them graduated from Johns Hopkins two years ago.
"Philly's home, and it's a stone's throw from our networks," including key customers and initial investors, said David West, cofounder and chief executive. West says Proscia products are in use at the Johns Hopkins department of pathology, at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, and the Henry Ford Health System, among others.
West and cofounder Coleman Stavish met in kindergarten at St. John Neumann Catholic elementary school in Bryn Mawr and attended St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia together. West and cofounder Nathan Buchbinder, a North Jersey native, majored in biomedical engineering at Hopkins. Stavish studied computer science at the University of Pittsburgh.
Unlike digital-lab developers such as Theranos, the West Coast medical-testing start-up that attracted Silicon Valley investors and a valuation of billions before its founder was charged with fraud, Proscia doesn't collect blood. Its software is designed to sort information collected on digital imaging and testing equipment and move that data efficiently among labs, doctors, insurers, and patients so they can make accurate decisions fast, according to its founders.
"Labs are moving away from a piece of tissue on a piece of glass under a microscope, toward digital workflow," West said. Commercial and hospital labs in the last two years have migrated toward larger digital scanners and specialty hardware that produces large volumes of data, creating an opportunity for software that can run that equipment efficiently.
The group began offering an initial, free tier of its test management software while the founders were still in school, in 2014. The company claims 4,000 pathologists and researchers are now using its cloud-based digital-pathology platform.