Bayer buys Blackford, Scots medical imaging AI firm

Conrad Chin, Ben Panter and Scott Rutherford of Blackford Analysis

University of Edinburgh spinout Blackford Analysis, a medical imaging Artificial Intelligence (AI) company, has announced its acquisition by global life science company Bayer.

Spun out from the university in 2010 and still headquartered in the city, Blackford said it has a presence in the UK and US focused on providing healthcare providers with “tailored tools and services to unlock the value of medical imaging AI, driving efficiencies and improving patient outcomes.”

Blackford has been supported by strategic investors in Scottish health-tech companies including angel syndicate Archangels as well as the University of Edinburgh’s venture investment fund Old College Capital, Scottish Enterprise, Thairm Bio and Tricapital.

Archangels has provided £6 million of patient capital investment to support Blackford’s growth since 2012.

Following the acquisition, Blackford will continue to operate as an independent organisation on an arm’s-length basis “to preserve its entrepreneurial culture.”

It will remain headquartered in Scotland and no changes are expected to the management and staff.

The company said it will “remain accountable to advance its technology, channel partnerships and clinical application portfolio while benefiting from the experience, infrastructure and reach of Bayer as a global pharmaceutical company.”

The acquisition is expected to close later this year, pending the satisfaction of customary closing conditions.

Blackford has a number of strategic partnerships with blue-chip companies as well as innovative medical imaging AI providers to develop and commercialise technology and sells to international markets.

In 2020, Blackford and Bayer collaborated through a development and licence agreement that laid the foundation for Bayer’s recently launched medical imaging platform, Calantic Digital Solutions.

Blackford founder and CEO Ben Panter said: “Blackford exists to improve the lives of patients and populations by unlocking the adoption and benefits of medical imaging AI and we explored a number of funding options to expand the company to deliver this mission.

“Bayer’s offer allows us freedom to continue to deliver that mission as an independent, arms-length company along with all the strength and support of an experienced life science partner.

“I’m extremely proud of everything our team has achieved and look forward to continuing to expand our partnerships across the industry.

“I’d like to acknowledge our investors’ unwavering support over the last twelve years, and I’m delighted to be returning value that can be reinvested in the next generation of entrepreneurial companies in Scotland.”

Catherine Martin, Vice-Principal of Corporate Services at the University of Edinburgh, said: “The university is proud to have supported Dr Ben Panter and Blackford Analysis from the time of the company’s spin out from our Institute of Astronomy in 2010.

“By applying technology originally developed for stargazing to the medical sphere, Blackford is a fantastic example of how university research can be translated into real-world solutions.

“This acquisition is testament to the brilliant Blackford team and supportive investor group led by Archangels.”

Niki McKenzie, Joint Managing Director of Archangels, said: “The acquisition of Blackford is excellent news for Ben and his brilliant team who we’ve worked with for over a decade.

“Blackford’s acquisition by a company of Bayer’s global stature represents a major success story for Archangels, demonstrates the opportunity for the Scottish tech community and the esteem in which is held internationally.”

Kerry Sharp, Director, Entrepreneurship and Investment, Scottish Enterprise, said: “Blackford is a fantastic example of how Scotland’s patient and supportive ecosystem can help ambitious early-stage companies achieve success.

“This acquisition will provide increased opportunities for the company alongside Bayer and we are delighted to have supported Blackford for over 10 years through our co-investment model.”

Stefan Oelrich, Member of the Board of Management, Bayer AG, and President of Bayer’s Pharmaceutical Division, said: “We are pleased to join forces with Blackford and their exceptional team to optimally utilize our combined expertise in healthcare technology with the aim to deliver true value to radiologists and their teams for the benefit of their patients.

“Adding Blackford and its AI technology to our radiology portfolio secures Bayer an excellent position in the fastest growing segment within the overall global radiology industry.”

Alantra served as Blackford’s exclusive financial advisor in the transaction.