Valar Labs: Reimagining Cancer Treatment Decisions with Artificial Intelligence
by Anirudh, Damir, Viswesh and Pranav
Decisions made during cancer care management are highly uncertain. Current tools don’t help the majority of cancer patients and don’t reduce uncertainty for oncologists in these critical decisions. This uncertainty leads to billions of dollars of wasted cost and unnecessary loss of life. At Valar Labs, we’re building artificial intelligence to reimagine treatment decisions for cancer patients.
We first met at Stanford where we all worked on research at the intersection of AI and Medicine in the Stanford ML Group led by Prof. Andrew Ng. The four of us were brought together by a shared vision that pathology was an untapped modality in cancer care, and its rich information could answer clinical questions that could not be answered before.
As founders we were all shaped by unique experiences at the intersection of AI and medicine that brought us to this problem. Anirudh had previously built medical devices and production AI systems across the tech and medical industry. Damir and Viswesh were second time founders having built contactless cards for arthritic patients and AI screening tools for children with eye disorders respectively. Pranav had been at the forefront of building AI technologies for high-impact medical applications through his PhD and now as an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School.
AI and Digital Pathology
We are at a unique inflection point in history to finally address the highest need questions in oncology with increased digitization and exponential advances in machine learning. Progress in AI for pathology has been limited for years by lack of workflow digitization. However, we watched that bottleneck melt away over COVID-19 as many academic medical centers started scaling adoption of digital pathology to enable remote work for pathology teams. We see this new data modality entering cancer care as highly informative to the next generation of oncology decision support.
Actionable genomic mutations in pancreas cancer are like Bigfoot, you always hear about them but you never see them. — Dr. Eric Collisson, UCSF
Oncologists today still have high uncertainty with therapeutic selection even after significant advances in genomic testing. Our advisor Dr. Eric Collisson — one of the leading oncology experts in GI cancers — stressed the need for better decision support in cancer, remarking “Actionable genomic mutations in pancreas cancer are like Bigfoot, you always hear about them but you never see them.” We are excited to bring the exponential advances in computer vision and digital pathology together to discover new biomarkers to better treat cancer patients, and we are thrilled to be collaborating with Eric on our mission.
Today, oncologists have more therapeutic options to choose from than ever before, and yet we lack the routine ability to query historical outcomes in order to better match the right treatments to the right patients at the right time in their clinical journey. There is a huge opportunity to build a continuously learning health system in which oncologists and patients are empowered with precise, data-driven diagnostic tooling. The velocity with which the Valar team is executing matches the importance of this mission. — Vineeta Agarwala and Jay Rughani @ a16z
Bringing novel products at the intersection of AI and medicine into the hands of oncologists needs great partners with experience operating in oncology and software. We are excited to be joined by Vineeta Agarwala and Jay Rughani from Andresseen Horowitz. Vineeta and Jay have both developed and distributed oncology & software data products at Flatiron Health. They have been strong supporters of our vision and we are thrilled to be partnering with them for the next phase of Valar Labs.
“We believe the Valar team is going to truly transform cancer treatment and we are so proud to have supported them in their journey from being Stanford AI students in our Pear summer accelerator to building out a world-class advisory and technical team and making incredible progress.” — Mar Hershenson and Vivien Ho @ Pear VC.
We have also been working closely with the Pear.VC team since the Pear Accelerator, and we are grateful to continue partnering with them.
We are also excited to be joined by a group of top operators, advisors and founders in healthcare. Investors in the round include Dave King (former CEO Labcorp), Peer Schatz (former CEO Qiagen), Devin Carty (Martin Ventures, former CSO at Cancer Treatment Centers of America), Arif Nathoo & Web Sun (Founders of Komodo Health), Johannes Schildt (CEO Kry), Andy Palmer (Koa Labs), Steve Blank (Stanford Lean Launchpad), Charles Roberts (CGO Freenome), Ahsan Amjad (CEO ABC Labs), Maria Rankka (Co-founder ABC Labs), Per Båtelson (Founder Takura), Saharsh Patel (COO Canva Health), Monishika Gupta (WellBeam), Nikita Andersson (Hummingbird VC), Cavin Mozarmi (Remus Capital) among others. We couldn’t be more excited to learn from their success in building category-defining companies to build one of our own.
At Valar Labs we see a world where any question an oncologist has can be answered through intelligent digital diagnostics and we’re positioned to play a key role in building that future. With the support of our investors and advisors, we’re hiring to grow our interdisciplinary team of computer scientists and clinicians. Join us in our journey by reaching out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s work together to make this world a reality.
Anirudh, Damir, Viswesh and Pranav