By Manas Mishra
(Reuters) – SoftBank on Monday led a new funding round of $165 million in California-based Karius and invested $100 million in New York-headquartered AI company Behavox, as the technology giant builds a portfolio under its second Vision Fund.
The two deals come at a time of intense investor scrutiny into SoftBank’s investments.
The Japanese company earlier this month reported a second straight quarter of losses at its first Vision Fund, pushing Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son to scale back his second fund.
Karius, which markets a test that can quickly detect hard-to-diagnose infections through a simple taking of blood, said the funding would expand its commercial outreach and clinical research.
Although relatively small by the standards of Softbank <9984.T>, the funding marks the latest in a list of healthcare investments that include drugmaker Roivant Sciences and Vir Biotechnology Inc <VIR.O>, an infectious-disease focused drug developer.
Karius’ test, which is already being used in more than 100 U.S. hospitals, turns liquid biopsy technology previously used chiefly to measure the progress of cancers to the detection of over 1,000 pathogens, including bacteria and fungi.
The funding round values the company at over $700 million, according to a filing made by the company to the state of Delaware, a copy of which was seen by Reuters. Karius said it was not disclosing valuation details at this time.
Dr. Bill Muller at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago said his hospital typically uses the test on patients who are at the most risk of infections that are difficult to diagnose using conventional methods. He estimates that his hospital typically averages five-10 orders of the test per month.
The company said the list price for the test was $2,000 for hospitals.
“Softbank’s healthcare team is very experienced and we actually learnt a lot through the diligence process through their questions,” Karius CEO Mickey Kertesz told Reuters.
“I anticipate they (Softbank’s healthcare team) will add a lot of value beyond the financial resources we have secured.”
Separately, Behavox said SoftBank first became a user of its platform before making the investment.
Behavox’s platform uses AI (artificial intelligence) to analyze internal company data such as employee emails and behavior to flag compliance issues. Its clients include banks and private-equity firms.
Behavox said CEO Erkin Adylov and other key employees would remain the biggest shareholders in the company.
(Reporting by Manas Mishra and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)