Launch & Grow
Gray Oncology Solutions supports cancer centre operations by optimizing the flow of cancer patient treatment, reduces the manual work of staff and improves the patient experience. As cancer rates rise globally, healthcare providers are facing resource issues and financial constraints that can affect the quality of care. Through managing the treatment scheduling for chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery (soon to come!), facilities can optimize their use of resources and improve efficiency, all while ensuring the patient is getting treated as soon as possible.
Using operations research and AI algorithms, the software determines precisely where an appointment should fit into the busy schedule along with how long the appointment should be.
“There’s no doubt the reason I went into entrepreneurship is because I’ve seen so many promising research papers and projects just die in academia. That is why I’m here,” says André Diamant, Ph.D., CEO & Co-Founder.
In February 2020, the founding team was in the early stages of creating an operational efficiency platform that combined experience in academia and understanding of operational problems within hospitals (driven by years of research led by professors Louis-Martin Rousseau & Nadia Lahrichi). Then when COVID-19 hit, they thought the idea would never take off. “We immediately figured it was over. But during conversations with hospitals, instead of shutting the door on us, they did just the opposite, and showed even more interest,” says Diamant.
One of the largest hospitals in Québec (CHUM), allowed Gray to develop the first iteration of their product and since then landed multiple grants & were awarded the “Best Startup” at CHUM’s INNOVE-ACTION conference. “Our relationship with CHUM has been very strong and instrumental in our growth,” says Diamant. “CHUM stands out in Montreal in the way they collaborate with innovative startups. We landed on a contractual agreement that works for both sides and we’ve been so fortunate in having access to their data and daily meaningful and actionable feedback from hospital staff.”
“Cancer treatment management is a complex task, with multiple constraints to consider in booking outpatient treatments,” says Kathy Malas, Associate to the President & Chief Executive Officer, Pole of Innovation & Artificial Intelligence in Health, CHUM. “In order to meet the needs of patients, while improving efficiency amongst our staff, Gray’s platform has promising value creation, including a cut in the administration time for scheduling and optimization of appointments and resources which might increase the number of treatments possible.”
During Montreal InVivo’s Life Sciences Entrepreneurship Development Program in Spring 2020, André met District 3 coaches Jane Somerville and Edna Chosack at a workshop. Since the team already had contracts confirmed with Montreal-area hospitals, District 3 enrolled them into the Launch & Grow program—ideal for startups that already have initial traction through customers, letters of intent, or initial investment. Today, Diamant receives support from D3 based on his evolving needs such as bi-weekly, one-on-one coaching, and access to advisors within the U.S network.
The Future of Gray Oncology Solutions
Diamant asserts that from the get-go their mission has been simple. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to treat patients quicker and save healthcare providers money. Investors understand that our software provides a necessary solution within strained healthcare systems.” In July 2021, they received a $1.25M CAD funding round led by Anges Quebec.
“Angel investors from Anges Québec were attracted to Gray Oncology by its strong growth potential in the “value-based care” sector. Their business model focuses on improving the customer experience and the performance of oncology centers, a cutting-edge sector,” said Genevieve Tanguay, CEO of Anges Québec, the largest network of angel investors in Canada.
Serge Beauchemin, Managing Partner at AQC Capital, a venture capital investment firm that exclusively co-invests in start-up companies with angel investors from Le réseau Anges Québec adds, “Our investment partners were really impressed by the talent found in Gray’s management team and its ability to deliver and stick to its plan. The significant traction that the company was able to generate from experts, renowned angel investors and institutions, including the Center Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), the largest university hospital in Quebec, also weighed in on the investment decision.”
Next up, Diamant is thinking about how the current software can support cancer centre operations across Canada and into the US, while also thinking about adapting the technology to other areas of hospital care. “The direction we’re going is to cover the entire cancer care continuum, first by expanding into surgery and then eventually diagnosis and follow-up.”