General Electric joined four venture capital firms in pledging $100 million for a six-month contest to finance ideas for improving breast cancer detection, according to Bloomberg.
The goal is to speed the diagnosis of breast cancer, the most common form of the disease in women, and find more-precise therapies, GE said. Breast cancer also will be the initial focus of a $1 billion GE investment over five years to develop products to detect disease early and treat tumors.
“In the case of breast cancer, there’s some meaningful therapies, it’s such a pervasive disease, we thought it was a good place to start,” said Immelt. “There’s a chance for this disease to go chronic in some cases.”
The contest is modeled on a smartgrid drive under GE’s ecomagination initiative, which includes a $200 million fund that has put up financing for 22 small companies and entrepreneurs working on so-called renewable technologies. The $1 billion is part of the $6 billion GE pledged to spend under its Healthymagination campaign begun two years ago.
The contest will use both direct investments and grant access to the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company’s sales force and research and development resources, also awarding $100,000 for universities for research.
Immelt has been building out the health-care business at GE, expanding partnerships and boosting research with an eye toward making cancer diagnosis more precise.
GE will contribute half of the $100 million fund. Venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Venrock Associates, Mohr Davidow Ventures and MPM Capital will provide the rest. Immelt and executives from the firms said the initiative is a chance for GE to offer small companies funding at a time when investment opportunities are scarce.
The cancer initiative also includes a three-year partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a non-profit group that raises money for breast cancer research, to expand women’s access to new technologies to fight the disease, GE said. Initial programs will be in Wyoming, Saudi Arabia and China.