New investment in Vara - making data-driven breast cancer screening accessible to those who need it most


EQT Foundation invests in Vara, a full stack AI platform for data-driven breast cancer screening

EQT Foundation is pleased to announce its investment in Vara, a healthtech company combining AI with the expertise of leading radiologists, redefining breast cancer screening by making it more accessible, effective and measurable. Originally spun out of the German AI-venture studio Merantix in 2018, Vara has built an intelligent end-to-end AI platform for breast cancer screening, delivering measurable impact by increasing the productivity of the screening physicians, while lowering the risk of not detecting cancer. With the mission to make data-driven breast cancer screening accessible for every woman around the world, the ambitious Vara-team strives to drive impact and make a change.

Breast cancer can affect every woman and it is one of the most common cancer deaths with close to 700,000 lives lost every year, of which approximately 70 percent occur in low- and middle-income countries. Despite a 98 percent survival chance if breast cancer is detected early, survival chances drop significantly if discovered in stage III or stage IV - hence, detecting it early is key. For women living in countries with well-developed and government funded screening programs, less than 10 percent of breast cancer cases are found in later stages. This unfortunately looks very different in other markets, especially in emerging countries, where regular screenings are not part of or funded by the public healthcare system, leading to prohibitively high prices and a lack of awareness of the importance of regular screens. In addition, there is a global shortage of radiologists, and inexperienced screeners increase the risk that a significant portion of early-stage signs of breast cancer are not detected.

Better breast cancer screening should be a universal offering to every woman in the world. Vara’s AI-powered software platform, created with screening radiologists, leverages the different strengths of radiologists and artificial intelligence software. Vara’s solution has proven results of improving overall accuracy, by identifying more cancerous areas than top radiologists and the ability to reduce the radiologists’ workflow, according to research published in The Lancet Digital Health. This could be game-changing, especially for low- and middle-income countries where this solution will make it more affordable and hence accessible.

Today, roughly 30 percent of all screening centers in Germany are using Vara’s state-of-the-art platform. With this proven successful concept, the EQT Foundation will support the Vara team on their growth journey, actively focusing on fast-growing emerging markets such as Mexico, Egypt and India and with the north star to reach 20 million women screened, who otherwise wouldn't have had the chance to be screened, by 2030. Through integration with cancer registries, Vara has access to more than 10 years of clinical and pathological follow-up data from over 9 million mammograms.

In close collaboration with Vara, EQT Foundation’s Deal Team consisting of Madeleine Magnerius, Alexandra Olsson and Anna Cisneros will support on their growth journey through relevant subsector expertise, access to industry experts and portfolio companies in the radiology sector.