Instacart CEO Fidji Simo is helping launch the Metrodora Institute, a for-profit, AI-enabled medical and research center in Salt Lake City for people with neuroimmune axis disorders.
The disorders are complex chronic illnesses that trigger dysfunctional interactions across multiple body systems including the nervous, immune, endocrine and gastrointestinal systems.The pandemic led to a growing number of people affected by these disorders, as they can be a long-lasting symptom of COVID-19, according to research from 2022 in peer-reviewed journals Heart Rhythm and Nature.
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Simo was diagnosed with a neuroimmune axis disorder three years ago. She said her experience led her to believe the traditional health system isn’t equipped to treat these patients.
“Going through the system, I felt like doctors were looking at me like a set of body parts,” Simo said. “A lot of these [illnesses] are multisystem conditions, which means you’re falling apart from head to toe.”
The institute's co-founder is Dr. Laura Pace, a neurogastroenterologist researcher who has served as a co-investigator of the National Institutes of Health’s Undiagnosed Diseases Network. The two decided to launch the institute to bridge the divide between clinical care and research for these rare illnesses.
“When we talk about clinical care and research, one of the reasons that innovation and progress in clinical medicine is slow is that we think about these as two completely separate processes,” Pace said. “It doesn't have to be that way.”
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Metrodora has raised $35 million from private investors.
Pace said they began seeing patients last month. The goal is to treat 20,000 patients per year.
"The unmet need for this patient population is massive," Simo said.
According to research in the peer-reviewed journal Gastroenterology, nearly 40% of Americans live with at least one chronic disease resulting from the dysregulation of the neuroimmune axis.
Metrodora is negotiating contracts with insurers to cover some of their services, which will help address equity issues, Pace said.
The center will rely on digital health and artificial intelligence to help quickly translate research into clinical care. It is partnering with PathAI, which has developed AI solutions for pathology; Fabric Genomics, which uses AI to identify and prioritize new genome variants associated with neuroimmune axis disorders; and Biofourmis, which uses analytics and wearables to help patients manage chronic conditions.
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“When we pitched these companies, it wasn’t too hard because they had challenges [in] working with the traditional health system in advancing care for patients,” Simo said.
Simo said she remains focused on her job at grocery delivery app Instacart. In September, the company launched Instacart Health, a health and wellness initiative that advances the work it has done with food assistance programs, nutrition education and prescribed meal plans.