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Utah Business

Fidji Simo, Instacart’s new CEO, has her sights set on a new healthcare startup, The Metrodora Institute, in Utah.

InstaCart’s new CEO Fidji Simo wants to end neuroimmune disorders

Fidji Simo, CEO of Instacart and co-founder of The Metrodora Institute, was recently diagnosed with a neuroimmune disorder and according to her, the process was anything but simple.  

“It took many years and a lot of willpower for me to get an accurate diagnosis after getting my symptoms dismissed,” Simo says. “Even once I got [a diagnosis], I bounced around between several specialists. Sadly, as I started sharing my own diagnosis odyssey, many people reached out to me to share their experiences, which made me realize that something was structurally broken in how we care for patients with such conditions.” 

Simo’s experience is why she teamed up with a group of world-class doctors to found a new healthcare startup, The Metrodora Institute, with the goal to improve the patient experience so that others don’t have to struggle to find an accurate diagnosis or sufficient care. “It became clear that the right model of care is one that believes patients, and gets specialists to collaborate to come up with solutions that address the needs of the whole person, instead of treating them as a sum of body parts,” says Simo. 

To achieve this kind of next-level patient care, The Metrodora Institute plans to operate with a first-of-its-kind team approach that brings specialists across different areas together to address patient needs. “What’s really unique about the Institute is that, in this multidisciplinary clinic, we’ve brought all of the specialists together under one roof,” says Dr. Laura Pace, a rare disease expert as well as the CEO and co-founder of the Metrodora Institute.

 “Because we are one institution, we’re not breaking [specialists] out into different divisions or departments, which is usually done by medical specialty. Instead, we’re all practicing in one area and we’re all actively collaborating on patients. We’re going to have time set aside every week to discuss the super complex patients as a group and develop comprehensive care plans.”

This all-hands-on-deck approach, combined with an ornate focus on the research behind what causes these diseases, is what Dr. Pace thinks will help the Metrodora Institute to be a revolutionary leader in healthcare. 

“These complex disorders disproportionately affect women. And there’s still so much gender bias within society and within medicine,” says Dr. Pace. “When women are presenting to their doctors with symptoms that affect multiple body systems, they’re being told it’s just nerves; they’re just anxious; they’re just depressed, instead of actually evaluating them.”

As for why these disorders target women so frequently, Dr. Pace says we don’t know yet, but her team hopes to find out. “We have hypotheses, but they haven’t been studied. There hasn’t been much money put toward understanding this question. Really in 2021, we should be able to know the answer because this isn’t a new phenomenon. So there’s more work to be done.”

Simo, Dr. Pace, and the rest of the team hope to accomplish this work by creating industry partners across Utah’s burgeoning tech sector. And though the research and clinical care sectors are traditionally a stark contrast to the fast-moving world of tech, Simo plans to change that by bringing more of the speed and innovation of the tech world to The Metrodora Institute. 

“What I love most about tech is that we focus on a bold vision and end outcome we want to enable, then chart a course to get there by innovating on different tactics,” Simo says. “Metrodora is taking a similar approach: we want to find a cure to neuroimmune conditions within the next decade, and we know that it will require a completely different playbook from the typical playbook that large medical institutions apply.”

Dr. Pace agrees and says there’s been a lot of interest from industry partners who want to collaborate in this space. “They are really excited to work in this sort of novel space because it’s basically untouched, and there’s so much low-hanging fruit,” she says. “There’s so much science and tech that’s just waiting to be applied to this. Our partnerships are going to allow us to massively accelerate research in this area.”

The Metrodora Institute’s research has already begun, and they hope to open their doors for patient care in 2022. Going forward, Dr. Pace hopes others in the industry might follow their model of care. 

“The more the merrier,” Dr. Pace says. “There are so many patients in need. There’s so much work that needs to be done in this space. We’re creating the blueprint to show that this model can be successful. And because it improves patient care, we can encourage others to follow in our footsteps.”