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After a partner's cancer scare, this tech fund is now investing in health

  • Charles River Ventures is formally launching its "bioengineering" practice and a new investor.

Charles River Ventures is known for taking big bets in social networking companies, like Yammer and Twitter.

Now, it's the latest technology firm to get serious about health care.

On Friday, it formerly announced its new bioengineering practice and a new investor: Dylan Morris, who joined the fund from Eric Schmidt-backed Innovation Endeavors. Prior to that, Morris co-founded a medical device company called Integrated Plasmonics.

CRV isn't the first venture firm to explore this space. Andreessen Horowitz also has a bio fund, led by health-technologist Vijay Pande, and Founders Fund, GV, Khosla Ventures, Menlo Ventures, among others, are stepping up their investments in health-tech. Some firms have hired practicing doctors and other medical experts to help guide their investment decisions.

For CRV, it all started when general partner, George Zachary, had a cancer scare. Zachary, who shared his story with CNBC, ultimately made the decision to focus on companies at the intersection of technology and health, after learning that he had a rare, benign tumor. "My experience as a patient was insane," he said. "I couldn't believe how screwed up the health system was."

The fund will have locations in both Boston and Palo Alto.

Via a Medium blog post, describing the bioengineering focus:

Recent advancements in AI, machine learning and big data are opening up entirely new ways to improve and redesign biologics; from synthetics to human health, diagnostics and therapeutics to ecological applications. We're interested in efforts to cure diseases & the application of new technologies to prevent the onset of disease, so that people can live longer, healthier lives.