Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women, and to help improve screenings, Vara has developed an artificial-intelligence screening software that not only enables early detection, but also helps radiologists streamline their workflows.
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“When you detect breast cancer at its earliest stages, the likelihood is that it can be treated 100 percent,” Co-founder and CEO Jonas Muff told Crunchbase News. “If it is detected only by symptoms, the likelihood of an easy and effective treatment drops significantly.”
Muff and Stefan Bunk spun off the Berlin-based company from Merantix AG in 2018. Its cloud-based workflow includes a viewer and reporting interface that can be used across multiple workstations, capable of significantly speeding up radiologists’ reporting processes, Muff said.
Vara’s machine-learning software is already being implemented by screening providers across Europe, he said. In addition, the company has also attracted a group of investors.
OMERS Ventures, one of Canada’s largest defined benefit pension plans, led Vara’s $7 million Series A funding round, announced Tuesday. The round included participation from Merantix, Think.Health, Soleria Capital and Plug and Play. As part of the investment, Bryony Marshall, OMERS Ventures’ associate director, will join Vara’s board.
Vara plans to use this funding to further its European expansion, prepare to enter the U.S. and other international markets, and to leverage its vast data pools to improve financial and clinical outcomes for both screening providers and governments, Muff said.
The process by which radiologists traditionally analyze 2D mammograms is repetitive and time-consuming because each study requires a manual assessment, Muff said. Vara’s machine-learning algorithm was trained and tested on breast cancer datasets of 2.5 million images to filter out the healthy studies, thus enabling radiologists to focus on the more complex cases that require urgent attention, he added.
In addition, when a normal mammogram is evaluated, the platform prewrites a report which physicians can then double-check and sign off with a single click, Muff said. The potentially suspicious mammograms are viewed through Vara’s highly optimized workflow software that can be customized to the radiologists’ specific requirements.
“Our mission is to make sure as few women as possible die from breast cancer and to make screening widely accessible, especially in rural areas that are constantly underserved and where radiologists are missing,” he added. “We will make sure more women are screened, more cancer is detected and there are lower mortality rates.”
Photo: Vara co-founders Jonas Muff and Stefan Bunk. Courtesy of Vara
Blogroll Illustration: Li-Anne Dias