Aignostics raises €14 million Series A to Advance AI-powered Pathology
September 15, 2022
Aignostics, a spin-off from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, developing novel digital pathology solutions with “Explainable AI” for pharmaceutical research and diagnostics, today announced the closing of an oversubscribed €14 million Series A financing round. Wellington Partners led the round, joined by existing investors Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF), VC Fonds Technologie managed by IBB Ventures and High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF). CARMA Fund, initiated by Ascenion, also participated as a new investor.
While pathologists are outstanding at interpreting individual tissue samples qualitatively, deep analysis of large data sets is a challenge better suited for AI. Recognizing that, Aignostics focuses on building leading AI models for the detailed analysis of tissue samples and associated metadata for its blue-chip pharma and biotech clients. Aignostics’ AI models go well beyond current off-the-shelf solutions and established approaches. Their models cover key tissue staining technologies including hematoxylin-eosin (H&E), immunohistochemistry (IHC) and multiplex immunofluorescence (mIF). They enable the acceleration of pre-clinical and translational research to improve understanding of disease biology, mode of action, or novel biomarkers and drug response characteristics, which are difficult to assess with traditional approaches under a microscope.
“With this new round of funding, we want to continue building our presence and team. In particular, we will put a stronger focus on the US market, in which we have been active since the beginning of this year,” explained Viktor Matyas, CEO and co-founder of Aignostics. “By accelerating our investments into our platform and regulatory excellence, we will be able to offer a Good Clinical Practice (GCP) compliant development and analysis process starting early 2023, and we plan to have first AI models in use in early-stage clinical trials soon thereafter. Eventually, we aim to become a credible choice for global Companion Diagnostic (CDx) developments too.”
“In addition, we will continue driving innovation in machine learning research. For instance, our patented “Explainable AI” technology reverse engineers traditional black-box AI models and reveals features that its decisions and predictions are based on. This helps discover novel biomarkers or drug response characteristics. Moreover, we have developed a proprietary approach for the automated training of cell-level AI that does not rely on manual annotations by pathologists. Both approaches have successfully been deployed in client studies, and there are several more areas of research that we have identified as highly promising and impactful,” said Dr. Maximilian Alber, CTO and co-founder.
“What makes Aignostics unique is not just its technology, but also its comprehensive access to key data modalities and pathologists, who are closely involved in the development process at all times. This combination allows Aignostics to rapidly build bespoke pre-trained AI models that are highly impactful when used by its clients on their own research and clinical trial data,” said Dr. Johannes Fischer, Principal at Wellington Partners. The offering is “tissue centric”, meaning there is always a stained tissue sample at the core of the analysis, but often involving metadata and additional data modalities, such as molecular data or clinical data.
Dr. Alexander Ehlgen from Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund added: “We have been very pleased with the development of Aignostics over the last two years and believe the team has demonstrated the value it can add to its pharma and biotech clients. BIVF is therefore excited to continue supporting Aignostics’ growth and development, and in particular its research activities, as the Company builds out its market-leading technology and IP.”
Dr. Rainer Strohmenger, Managing Partner at Wellington Partners commented: “We are deeply impressed by the Aignostics team and technology. Wellington is excited to join the group of existing investors and to support a leading German AI player during its expansion phase. Even more than our previous portfolio company Definiens, Aignostics has the potential to transform how the pharmaceutical industry and CROs use pathology in their drug development process, with the goal to significantly advance treatments for patients with hard-to-treat diseases, including cancer.”
Aignostics specializes in AI-powered pathology, uniquely combining proprietary technology, its pathologist network, and comprehensive access to key data modalities to build bespoke AI models for its global pharma and biotech client base. These AI models can deliver valuable insights into disease biology from tissue samples, such as novel biomarkers and drug response characteristics.
Aignostics formally started in 2018 in the Digital Health Accelerator program of the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), based on joint research by Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, one of Europe’s largest university hospitals, led by Prof. Frederick Klauschen, and TU Berlin, led by Prof. Klaus-Robert Müller. In early 2020, Aignostics was spun-out of Charité. To date, Aignostics has raised close to €20million in funding from leading VC investors and has offices in Berlin, Germany, and Boston, U.S.
Viktor Matyas, CEO
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About Wellington Partners
Wellington Partners is a leading European venture capital firm investing in the most promising early- and growth stage life science companies in the fields of biotechnology, therapeutics, medical technology, diagnostics and digital health. With funds totalling more than €1.2 billion, thereof €590 million committed to life sciences, Wellington Partners has been actively supporting world class private companies translating true innovation into successful businesses with exceptional growth. To date, Wellington Partners has invested in 56 innovative life science companies, including Actelion (acquired by J&J), Definiens (acquired by AZ), immatics (Nasdaq: IMTX). invendo (acquired by Ambu), MTM Laboratories (acquired by Roche/Ventana), Oxford Immunotec (acquired by PerkinElmer), Rigontec (acquired by MSD), Symetis (acquired by Boston Scientific), and Themis (acquired by MSD).
About Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund GmbH
Created in 2010, the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund GmbH (BIVF) invests in ground-breaking companies to drive innovation in biomedical research. BIVF is searching for significant enhancements in patient care through pioneering science and its clinical translation by building long-term relationships with scientists and entrepreneurs. BIVF’s focus is to target unprecedented concepts addressing high medical needs in immuno-oncology, regenerative medicine, infectious diseases and digital health.
About IBB Ventures
IBB Ventures has been providing venture capital to innovative Berlin-based companies since 1997 and has established itself as the market leader in early stage financing. The funds are primarily used for development and market launch of innovative products or services as well as for business concepts from creative industries. Two funds with a total volume of EUR 122 million are currently in the investment phase. Both VC funds are financed by the Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), managed by the State of Berlin. IBB Ventures has already invested in more than 260 creative and technology companies in Berlin; in syndicates with partners, the start-ups received approx. EUR 1.7 billion, of which IBB Ventures has invested EUR 250 million as lead, co-lead or co-investor.
About High-Tech Gründerfonds
High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) is a seed investor that finances high-potential, tech-driven start-ups. With around EUR 900 million in total investment volume across three funds and an international network of partners, HTGF has already helped forge more than 670 start-ups since 2005. With the start of HTGF IV, more than EUR 400 million in fund volume will be added in the fall of 2022. Driven by their expertise, entrepreneurial spirit and passion, its team of experienced investment managers and startup experts help guide the development of young companies. HTGF’s focus is on high-tech start-ups in the fields of digital tech, industrial technology, life sciences, chemistry and related business areas. To date, external investors have injected more than EUR 4 billion into the HTGF portfolio via more than 1,900 follow-on financing rounds. HTGF has also successfully sold interests in more than 160 companies. Fund Investors in the public-private partnership include the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, KfW Capital, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and many companies from a wide range of industries.
About Carma Fund
CARMA FUND is an investment fund for the advancement of early-stage Life Science and Healthcare assets and companies. The fund is uniquely suited for young projects from the medical space with their extended development timelines due to its extra-long term and flexible investment modes. It started off with a First Closing of €47M in June 2022 and is based in Munich and Frankfurt.
About Ascension GmbH
Ascenion is an independent technology transfer company focussing on the life sciences. It is partner to 30 research organizations, universities and university hospitals in Germany and Europe. Particular strengths are spin-off support and project development. In 2022 Ascenion initiated the CARMA FUND which invests in early-stage projects and start-ups in the life-science and healthcare sector. As technology transfer partner of the BIH and Charité Ascenion supported the founders and researchers in successfully implementing the spin-off from the BIH Digital Health Accelerator programme. In close cooperation with BIH, Ascenion also supported the negotiation of key agreements throughout the process and the series seed financing round.