Chinese unicorn iCarbonX buys image analysis player to establish data crunching outpost

China-Israeli cooperation

Jun Wang’s iCarbonX has dipped into its Series A haul to buy Imagu Vision, an Israeli startup active in identifying and analyzing medical images. The acquisition will turn Imagu Vision into the data analysis outpost of iCarbonX, giving it a key role in Wang’s attempt to build an artificial intelligence-enabled health data mining powerhouse.

In the period since Wang stepped down as CEO of BGI to start iCarbonX, details of his ambitions for the company have emerged in dribs and drabs. The acquisition of Imagu Vision, and the comments of its CEO Mor Amitai to Globes, add another piece of the puzzle. Imagu Vision is being rebranded as iCarbonX Israel--with Amitai becoming CTO--and will reportedly become the main development center of its Chinese parent, although the executive acknowledges there may be resistance to this idea.

"It won't be easy to convince them that it can be done in Israel, and that the most suitable people for this task are here," Amitai said. "I don't know of any foreign companies not originally founded in Israel that have decided that their main development center will be in Israel."

With China increasingly looking to Israel as a source of innovation--and Israel to China as a source of money and customers--the idea of an offshore development center is in keeping with current trends, though. And, for Wang, who is under pressure to deliver on the promise that attracted a $155 million Series A at a $1 billion valuation, the appeal of an off-the-shelf team is understandable.

In Imagu Vision, Wang is gaining access to a team that cut its teeth at Israeli genomics-driven drug discovery shop Compugen ($CGEN). Amitai and Naomi Keren, who is stepping up to the CEO role after the acquisition, left Compugen and bootstrapped the creation of Imagu Vision. The startup initially looked to apply its image analysis capabilities to multiple industries, before committing more and more time to the medical sector.

"For me, the combination of big data and medicine is an old dream from when I was at Compugen, and here I was able to close a circle,” Amitai said. “Joining iCarbonX, with its large databases and its vision, is making a dream come true in a way I never conceived.”

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