The Saudi Arabian crown prince plans to invest in the NHS chatbot maker Babylon Health through the Public Investment Fund, it was announced last week.
The backing is part of a $550m Series C round that, according to TechCrunch and others, puts the company at a valuation of more than $2bn.
WHY IT MATTERS
This investment is part of Babylon Health’s recent fundraising to expand in North America, the Middle East and China. Since 2018, it has secured partnerships with Tencent, Samsung and Telus, as well as a $100m deal with Prudential Asia.
Babylon’s app lets patients book virtual GP appointments and order prescriptions in order to make healthcare more accessible.
Despite being praised by the UK health secretary Matt Hancock as being ‘revolutionary’ and one of the ‘biggest names in AI’, Babylon Health has received criticism. Doctors have reported that the app’s AI-powered chatbot that analyses patients’ symptoms can miss signs of serious illnesses.
THE LARGER TREND
This deal is part of continuing attempts by the British government to create closer economic ties with Saudi Arabia. The Public Investment Fund has more than $300bn in assets under management, 10% of those are international. It invested $45bn in SoftBank’s technology fund and has made significant direct bets into other tech companies such as Uber and Tesla.
ON THE RECORD
Caroline Dinenage, minister of state for care, commented: “Our partnership with Saudi Arabia will have an important impact on the prosperity of our nations and our citizens — paving the way for new approaches to healthcare that can both benefit and improve patient safety.”
Saudi Arabia’s minister for health said that the memorandum of health with Babylon was tied to “the future delivery of health solutions for the Saudi Ministry of Health through their local partner Thiqah using Babylon’s artificial intelligence application”.