Catching Up with NVC Alum CancerIQ and Their New $4.8 Million Series A

COVID-19 halted routine cancer screenings. Since the onset of the pandemic, more than 80,000 patients have missed their mammograms, colonoscopies, or other appointments – and they may come out of this with later-stage, less treatable cancer.

For CancerIQ, a company focused on preventing disease, this has made its offering a must-have, not a nice-to-have, noted CEO and co-founder Feyi Ayodele, who said the company has been focused on making sure customers see this value, especially now.

In support of this goal, the company today announced that it has raised $4.8 million in a Series A funding round led by HealthX Ventures. It also has added two new hires to its integrated products team as it looks to advance CancerIQ’s integration with electronic medical records.

An alum of the 2013 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC), Ayodele has gone on to raise $8.6 million – the largest amount of capital raised by a Black founder, according to reporting from Chicago Inno. Though the process has not been without its challenges.

“I think investors [in Chicago] are a little bit more conservative than early-stage investors in other markets,” said Ayodele, “Because of that, there’s a huge emphasis on revenue and commercial traction.”

In this market, she said this has trained her to always be hunting for commercial validation.

“Every kind of metric and analysis that may be something a Series B investor would look at, those were all things we needed to have buttoned-up early in our process,” said Ayodele. “Regardless of me being a Black founder or not – it’s understanding what investors needed to see, and being very focused on delivering on that.”

Helping hone in on these needs, Ayodele said participating in the NVC actually killed CancerIQ’s initial business idea. “What was very helpful was getting quick feedback from people on things that didn’t work,” she explained, noting that having a diverse group of people evaluating the opportunity from multiple perspectives was key.

Taking the judges’ feedback as a “task list” of things the company needed to validate or invalidate early on, the experience helped refine what CancerIQ is doing today. “The NVC was really great for accelerating the ideation process before you invest too much personally in scaling your idea to the next level,” she added.

Today, the company is offering an end-to-end solution that enables healthcare providers to deliver precision health services using genetic and genomic information to focus on preventing or detecting disease early.

How the company accomplishes this is through a suite of products offered to providers, Ayodele explained. The first component in this offering is a solution to identify who is appropriate for genetic screening, combined with simple patient engagement techniques to garner information about a patient’s family history.

“The second part of our platform is about actually streamlining the genetic evaluation process and developing a genetically-based care plan for patients based on their results,” Ayodele added. Rounding this out is patient management to make sure the tailored cancer prevention plans are adhered to over time.

Said Ayodele, “Above all this we have really robust analytics that health systems can use to understand the genetic predisposition of their patient populations and also where those patients are in their journey and how much revenue or cost savings are coming from patients being managed.”

“It’s not just about the software – It’s about enabling people and the heavy lifting you need to do to make process changes permanent,” she added.

The company also is committed to supporting providers with the latest evidence-based guidelines, and it does so backed by an impressive lineup of advisors and co-founders, including Ayodele’s mother, Olufunmilayo Olopade, MD, Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics at the University of Chicago and director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics and Global Health at UChicago Medicine. Other co-founders include alumni Moe Alkhafaji, SM ’05 and Haibo Lu, MBA ’14.

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