Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Exclusive: Metrodora raises $35M to address neuroimmune disease

Illustration of a woman in a hospital gown made from a one hundred dollar bill sitting on an examination bed.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Instacart CEO Fidji Simo waited three years to be diagnosed with POTS, the condition that led her to cofound the Metrodora Institute, a new outpatient clinical center she's unveiling with $35 million in corporate venture backing.

Why it matters: POTS — postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome — falls into a neglected category of maladies known as neuroimmune disease that she hopes Metrodora will help illuminate, research and treat.

Deal details: Simo declined to disclose the funding source beyond describing them as a VC firm investing in Utah.

  • Salt Lake City-based Metrodora has no immediate plans to raise again, but Simo and Metrodora CEO Laura Pace say future expansions — such as potentially building an in-patient facility — will likely require new funds.
  • Metrodora is also unveiling partnerships with health tech companies —including remote monitoring startup Biofourmis — and AI-powered diagnostic developers PathAI and NeuraLight.
  • "This is a massive, neglected disease space that disproportionately impacts women," says Pace, a practicing physician who served as the co-lead for of the University of Utah’s NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Network clinical site.

How it works: Metrodora combines a for-profit clinical arm that plans to accept insurance with a research foundation that runs on philanthropic donations.

  • The aim is that having both arms operating from the same physical space will lead to consolidated decision-making and faster discoveries, Pace says.

What they're saying: Tech will power many of Metrodora's efforts, including AI-powered biobanking, remote patient monitoring and collecting electronic health record data via EHR partner athenahealth, Simo and Pace tell Axios.

  • "Some of the health tech companies we’re partnering with don’t realize the massive upside of their technologies on these patients," says Simo. "They might be focused on neurodegenerative diseases, for example, and we identify how they can be used more broadly."
  • For example, Metrodora's partnership with NeuraLight involves offering patients the startup's tests and sharing back with NeuraLight the consented patient data Metrodora collects.

One fun thing: Simo wanted a remote monitoring partner to help Metrodora keep an eye on patients after they left the campus and found an ideal candidate in Biofourmis.

  • When Simo shared the stage with Biofourmis CEO Kuldeep Singh Rajput at last year's J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, the two kicked off a conversation that turned into a long-term partnership.
  • Simo says Biofourmis presented a lot of great ideas around RPM for people with chronic illness, whose vital signs or baseline could differ dramatically from healthy people.
  • The partnership, which Pace expects to be "ongoing," will involve Metrodora offering Biofourmis' FDA-cleared monitoring devices to its patients and dispatching its providers to patients' homes.

By the numbers: Roughly 4 in 10 people in the U.S. have at least one chronic disease thought to be tied to the neuroimmune axis, per a 2021 study published in the journal Gastroenterology.

What's next: Metrodora aims to see 20,000 patients each year and share its datasets and samples with partners including research organizations and digital health companies.

  • "At a large health system, you’re limited," Pace says. "We’re creating a solution that I, as a practicing physician, always wanted."
Go deeper