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MATTER Member Profile: Feyi Olopade Ayodele of CancerIQ

Posted August 31 by Annette Ferrara

How CancerIQ’s “Genetics Clinic in a Box” is Revolutionizing Cancer Risk Screening for Community Healthcare Providers

The first light bulb went off on Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was 2012, and Feyi Olopade Ayodele was standing on the mythic African peak with her mother, Dr. Funmi Olopade, an award-winning cancer researcher from the University of Chicago. Feyi – who then focused on making early stage investments in healthcare startups at the Wharton Social Venture Fund – was in the middle of a career crisis. “I was feeling a lot like Simon Cowell at the time,” she confesses. “I was judging these startups, but I had never worked in healthcare or been an entrepreneur myself.” Overlooking the vast Tanzanian savanna, Feyi realized she should combine her passion for business with her mother’s deep knowledge of cancer genomics. But she didn’t quit her day job just yet.

About 9 months later, Feyi was back in the states working on a project to expand the University of Chicago Medicine’s community-based hospital services. There, she recognized that community hospitals were seeing many more patients than U of C, but they simply weren’t receiving the same great quality of care, especially when it came to predictable, hereditary cancers.

Many of these community-based hospitals do not have the resources or time to properly screen their patients for hereditary risk factors, so they end up diagnosing many patients with cancer that could have been predicted, often at a younger age and later stage than normal. “Too many young people are being diagnosed late because their doctors are unaware of their cancer risk factors,” says Feyi. “I’m on a mission to end that.”

To that end, Feyi wondered how she could “make it easier for community-based practices to incorporate genomics into clinical practices and be more preemptive about treating someone with a genetic predisposition to cancer.” Feyi teamed up with co-founder Haibo Lu and built CancerIQ to find an answer.

“Too many young people are being diagnosed late because their doctors are unaware of their cancer risk factors. I’m on a mission to end that.”

CancerIQ makes it easy for practices to offer cancer risk assessment programming to every patient that walks through the door. With CancerIQ, clinics can screen patients at scale using dynamic algorithms – generated in real time at the point of care – to identify those at high risk. It arms everyday providers with the knowledge and tools to quickly take action before a cancer diagnosis. Patients that undergo the CancerIQ screening process meet with genetic counselors and high risk specialists who use CancerIQ to help the patient make informed decisions about their care.

Just a year and half in, Feyi’s mountaintop “a-ha moment” is having real impact. CancerIQ’s notable clients include OSF Healthcare, Advocate Healthcare, and several other hospital systems across the country. The team is currently running IRB-approved studies quantifying the benefits of the CancerIQ model of care at OSF St. Francis in Peoria.

“Our biggest problem is keeping up with inbound demand,” Feyi says. She credits her success to an iterative, user-centered design process and her mother’s drafting of a “dream team” of medical advisors and board members to clinically validate her product.

CancerIQ was one of MATTER’s first members, joining in early 2015. CancerIQ has recruited MATTER Mentor-in-residence Jordan Dolin as a board member, and is now working with MATTER partner OSF Healthcare to expand the deployment of CancerIQ in their network. “We’re happy to be at MATTER at this tipping point,” says Feyi. “MATTER partners have made it possible for us to get a deeper footprint in their health systems and help us think through strategic partnership ideas that are now coming to fruition.”

Prior to MATTER, CancerIQ was a resident of 1871, a Chicago Booth New Venture Challenge Finalist, a member of Rock Health’s portfolio, and a Healthcare Category winner at the 1776 Global Challenge Cup in 2014. The company raised capital from a group of investors including KGC Capital, Lightbank Ventures, 1776 Ventures, Rock Health, and notable angel investors.
Feyi’s plans won’t stop with cancer care. “Every time I’ve reached one milestone, I want more. I’m really interested in CardiacIQ and Pre-natalIQ next.”

For more information on Feyi, connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter. For more information on CancerIQ, visit their website or follow them on Twitter.