Artificial Intelligence

Bayer Establishes AI Platform Leadership with Blackford Acquisition

Bayer and Blackford Logos

Six months after becoming radiology’s newest AI platform vendor, Bayer accelerated its path towards AI leadership with its acquisition of Blackford Analysis.

The acquisition might prove to be among the most significant in imaging AI’s short history, combining Blackford’s many AI advantages (tech, expertise, relationships) with Bayer’s massive radiology presence and AI ambitions. 

After closing later this year, Blackford will operate independently through Bayer’s well-established “arm’s length” model, allowing Blackford to preserve its entrepreneurial culture, while leveraging Bayer’s “experience, infrastructure and reach” to drive further expansion.

Bayer’s Calantic platform and team will operate separately from Blackford, providing Bayer customers with two distinct AI platforms to choose from, while giving Bayer two ways to drive its AI business forward. 

Although few would have predicted this acquisition, it makes sense given Bayer and Blackford’s relatively long history together and their complementary situations. 

  • Blackford was part of Bayer’s 2019 G4A digital health accelerator class
  • The companies have been working together to develop Calantic since 2020
  • Bayer has big AI goals, but its AI customer base and reputation were unestablished
  • Blackford’s AI customer base and reputation are solid, but it needed a new way to scale and a positive exit for its shareholders

Even fewer would have predicted that imaging contrast vendors would be the driving force behind AI’s next consolidation wave, noting that Guerbet invested in Intrasense just last week. However, imaging contrast and imaging AI could serve increasingly interrelated (or alternative) roles in the diagnostic process, and there’s surely advantages to being a leader in both areas for Bayer and Guerbet.

Speaking of AI consolidation, it appears that all those 2023 AI consolidation forecasts are proving to be correct, while bringing some of radiology’s largest companies into an AI segment that’s historically been dominated by startups. It wouldn’t be surprising if that trend continued.

The Takeaway

Bayer and Blackford have been working on their AI strategies for years, and this acquisition appears to give both companies a much better chance of achieving long-term AI leadership. Considering that AI is still in its infancy and could eventually play a dominant role in radiology (and across healthcare), AI leadership might be a far more significant market position in the future than many can imagine today.

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