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Investors backed an AI startup that puts a doctor on your smartphone with $60 million


dr ali parsa babylon health

UK artificial intelligence (AI) startup Babylon has raised $60 million (£47 million) for its smartphone app which aims to put a doctor in your pocket.

The latest funding round, which comes just over a year after the startup's last fundraise, means that the three-year-old London startup now has a valuation in excess of $200 million (£156 million), according to The Financial Times.

Babylon's app has been downloaded over a million times and it allows people in UK, Ireland, and Rwanda to ask a chatbot a series of questions about their condition without having to visit a GP.

The medical chatbot provides feedback on the patient's symptoms and recommends a paid-for video call with a human doctor when the occasion calls. In the UK, one-off calls with a doctor start at £25, while calls with a specialist cost more. Alternatively, Babylon users can pay £5 a month for a subscription to the service. In Rwanda, where Babylon has 450,000 users, people pay 50p for a consultation.

"The new funding will be used to accelerate the development of our technology and expanding geographically," Ali Parsa, founder and CEO of Babylon, told Business Insider. "We are looking at 11 to 12 countries," he added, saying that South East Asia and Africa are regions of focus for Babylon. The company is also in talks with a Middle Eastern government, Parsa said.

Babylon babylon_lifestyle2

Babylon currently employs around 170 people but Parsa said that this number is expected to grow "significantly" by the end of 2017. "There are 60 vacancies [at Babylon] right now," he said.

Babylon's aim is to build the world's most advanced AI platform in healthcare, support medical diagnosis, and predict personalised health outcomes globally.

"Cutting edge artificial intelligence together with ever increasing advances in medicine means that the promise of global good health is nearer than most people realise," said Parsa in a statement.

"Babylon scientists predict that we will shortly be able to diagnose and foresee personal health issues better than doctors, but this is about machines and medics co-operating not competing. Doctors do a lot more than diagnosis: artificial intelligence will be a tool that will allow doctors and health care professionals to become more accessible and affordable for everyone on earth. It will allow them to focus on the things that humans will be best at for a long time to come."


In the UK, Babylon employs around 100 doctors and pays them roughly the same as they'd get paid if they were working for the NHS. Many of them are busy mums and dads who don't want to work full time at a surgery or in a hospital, he said. 

Last January, Babylon raised $25 million (£19.5 million) from a range of investors, including DeepMind cofounders Demis Hassabis and Mustafa Suleyman. That round valued the company at over $100 million (£78 million), according to The Financial Times.

The latest funding round reportedly includes Egyptian billionaire business family, the Sawiris, as well as several other new investors.

The company teamed up with the NHS in January on a trial project that saw its AI doctor used to power the NHS 111 app, which is available to over a million north London residents. The partnership means that Londoners will be able to type their symptoms into an app instead of calling a human to describe their health problems over a phone. The app will then provide advice to the person on what to do next.

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