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Tempus And SoftBank Form Japanese AI Healthcare JV

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Masayoshi Son, the founder of SoftBank Group, revealed on Thursday that the Japanese IT behemoth and Chicago-based health tech startup Tempus have formed a joint venture in the nation. Through data analysis, the two want to provide AI-powered customized medical services in Japan under the moniker SB Tempus.

The business intends to begin with oncology. Son, whose father died of cancer last year, claims that cancer is still the leading cause of mortality in Japan.

Son’s ambitious and broader focus on AI is demonstrated by this move. He provided more information about a more focused use case inside that today at the impromptu press conference: the medical field.

Prior to today’s JV revelation, SoftBank had ties to Tempus. Prior to Tempus’s Nasdaq launch earlier this month, in April, it made a $200 million investment in the company. With its IPO, Tempus, which was previously valued at $8.1 billion in 2022, raised around $411 million at a valuation of over $6 billion. However, its valuation has not increased; at present, its market capitalization stands at $4.5 billion.

Serial entrepreneur and billionaire Groupon founder Eric Lefkofsky founded the U.S. genetic testing and data analysis company in 2015 after observing that physicians were not using data during his wife’s breast cancer treatment.

Tempus faces competition from similar businesses in the area, such as Guardant Health, a biotech company that sells blood tests for cancer detection, and Foundation Medicine, which analyzes tumors using big data.

Tempus intends to introduce its data-driven medical technologies to the Japanese market through SB Tempus. Son stated that SB Tempus will offer genomic testing, medical data aggregation and analysis (genomic, clinical, pathology, and imaging data), as well as AI insights for customized treatments and therapies. Tempus will “build clinical sequencing capabilities, organize patient data, and build a real-world data business in Japan.”

Both businesses have invested a sizable sum in this project. Son stated on stage at the press briefing that SoftBank and Tempus each own a 50% share, with SoftBank planning to invest 30 billion yen, or about $188 million.

According to Son, SB Tempus, which will launch in August, will provide three medical services to hospitals by utilizing AI to examine individual patient data as early as the following year.

How it works: From Japanese hospitals and universities, the JV venture will start gathering and analyzing patient genetic data. AI patterns will be trained on the data, which will include genetic, pathological, clinical, and picture data for patients in Japan. The business will give hospitals processed data for therapeutic use, and its AI solutions will recommend the best course of action for each patient.

According to Son, only around 1% of patients in Japan have used genomic testing. Comparatively, about 30% of Americans have had access to genomic testing. He also emphasized the company’s objective of catching up to the United States.

In addition to treating cancer, additional illnesses like neuropsychology, radiology, and cardiology will be included in the strategy.

The CEO of the Japanese computer giant made a special public appearance last Friday at the organization’s annual meeting; this news follows nearly a week later.

Son presented his vision for a world with Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) during the meeting and predicted that in ten years, AI will be ten times smarter than humans. Additionally, he stated that SoftBank’s prior investments were “just a warm-up” for his goal of ushering in an AI era.

Son reaffirmed the ways in which AI will help people in a variety of fields, citing medicine as one example. According to a story published by Bloomberg today, SoftBank is purportedly among the firms considering a $3 billion value investment in Perplexity AI, an AI startup based in the United States. Back in April, TechCrunch was the first to report on that round.)

Following a series of losses at SoftBank’s investment division Vision Fund, the tech entrepreneur from Japan went into “defense mode” and adopted a more cautious approach to investing. SoftBank, with billions of dollars in its war chest, appears to be fully prepared to invest in AI at this point.