Announcing Our $22 Million Series A to Accelerate AI in Precision Oncology

Co-led by DCVC and a16z, this funding will support the advancement of Vesta, world's first AI test to predict treatment response in bladder cancer, and catalyze expansion in other cancers.

May 22, 2024
Founders: Damir Vrabac (COO), Anirudh Joshi (CEO) & Viswesh Krishna (CTO)

We are thrilled to announce that DCVC and a16z have co-led a $22 million Series A in Valar Labs to accelerate the next generation of precision oncology. Vineeta Agarwala and James Hardiman will be joining our board and we are humbled by their enthusiasm to bring AI into practical clinical implementation to empower physicians making critical treatment decisions in cancer. We are also excited that this round had strong participation from existing investors a16z and Pear VC who have continued to back us since the genesis of the company.

“We see Valar as a leader in an emerging group of TechMed startups that harness AI and the power of data to augment physicians’ capabilities. Histology has always been one of the keys to diagnosing cancer, but Valar Labs is showing that there are unexpected depths in the digital slides pathologists review every day. And bladder cancer is only the beginning: we can’t wait to see where they take the technology next."

James Hardiman, general partner at DCVC

Next generation of precision oncology is here

We started Valar Labs to reduce uncertainty in cancer treatment decisions. Every day, oncologists are faced with challenging decisions for millions of cancer patients to determine which treatment pathway is most likely to be effective for a given patient. At Valar Labs, our aim is to provide every oncologist and cancer patient around the world with diagnostics that can help inform these critical decisions.

The history of precision oncology has been marked by inflection points with each inflection bringing new modalities of data to drive decision making and gain insight into cancer biology. Each new modality of data brought a step change in the patient experience and increased the number of patients for whom actionable diagnostic information became available. The field started with sequencing of solid tumors, then progressed to liquid biopsies, and now we are entering the digital and AI generation of precision oncology. Valar Labs is pioneering this new category of diagnostic testing where pathology paired with AI yields unprecedented insight into clinical outcomes and treatment response. As with other inflection points, this generation will lead to an order of magnitude greater number of clinical decisions that can be informed, and will expand precision medicine access to millions more patients.

“When I can make a statement about one treatment being more likely to succeed than another, that’s a whole different level of conversation than I’ve been able to have with patients up to now.”  

Dr. Eric Collisson, Fred Hutch Cancer Center

We have developed a first-of-its-kind AI test in bladder cancer, with more tests coming

Over the last couple of years, we have been able to demonstrate that quantitative AI analysis of H&E stained tumor histology slides can prognosticate outcomes and predict response to treatment. We have assembled a cohort of 1000+ patients with bladder cancer across 4 continents, and published our analysis showing that the Vesta assay can identify patients who would have more aggressive disease progression under standard of care treatment regimens, and who could benefit from other earlier interventions. Vesta is the first-ever, AI-based oncology test to be clinically offered in this disease and we are incredibly excited about the impact it could have for patients and providers. We have also demonstrated that Valar’s approach generalizes to several other tumor types (such as pancreatic cancer) through multiple publications and data that we have been fortunate to present alongside our collaborators at national oncology conferences over the past few years.

"The introduction of Vesta is a paradigm shift for how we can best serve our bladder cancer patients. Its ability to predict response to BCG treatment is invaluable particularly amidst the current nationwide BCG shortage. This ensures every patient receives personalized and highly effective treatment."

Dr. Jay Shah, Stanford Healthcare

Where this is going

Turning cancer into a less lethal disease is going to take advances in both therapeutics and diagnostics. While new therapies may take several years to make their way into the market, the existing therapies that we already have can materially improve patient outcomes if they are directed appropriately. We are aiming to make that happen across the hundreds of vexing oncology treatment decisions that exist today across dozens of cancer types affecting patients around the world.

“Valar Labs could transform how we approach cancer treatment decisions for a large number of patients today. By combining readily available tissue histology images with AI-driven insights, Valar is enabling physicians to deliver the precision oncology care that every patient deserves: matching the right treatment, to the right patient, at the right time.”

Vineeta Agarwala, MD, PhD, general partner at a16z Bio + Health

This is one of the most important challenges in medicine today, and we’d love for you to join us on this mission.