This article is part of our Dream Big(ger): York Region’s Innovators series. This series aims to create awareness and understanding of the robust innovation ecosystem in York Region, and takes a dive into the stories of local entrepreneurs and how they’re shaking up their industries.
When Keith Loo and Dr. Colin Hong launched a life-saving mobile health app out of York Region last year, they were quickly welcomed by the members of the business community as well as the innovative health sciences and health tech industry.
“Within half a year of moving to Aurora, pretty much every member of the local business community had reached out to find out how we could work together, for innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Keith Loo, a scale-up adviser, serial entrepreneur and the co-founder and CEO of Skinopathy.
“The mayor’s office was very welcoming and got to know us, and thanks to various events and networks that we were invited to participate in, we were able to find a new partner, and an investor.”
With access to over 17,000 life science graduate students and home to four world-class hospitals Skinopathy uses data and artificial technology to provide better access to dermatological care, lessen wait times and improve health-care outcomes.
It started as a tool to screen for skin cancers early in the pandemic after Dr. Hong, who has been medicine for nearly 40 years and was the former chief of plastic surgery for the Rouge Valley Health System, contacted Loo about a disturbing trend he was noticing in his practice.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the past president of the Ontario Medical Association had noticed a marked increase in the number of late-stage skin cancer patients he was seeing — patients who, if diagnosed earlier, would have a better outcome.
“Skin cancer has a 99-per-cent cure rate when you catch it early, however, if you let it develop, it can get very bad and potentially kill you,” says Loo.
“Dr. Hong reached out knowing that my career has been in data, AI and technology, and asked if it would be possible to build something to help his patients; and that’s how it started.”
According to Loo, a typical family doctor or general practitioner has a 67-per-cent accuracy rate when screening for skin cancer, while specialists like dermatologists and plastic surgeons have an 87-per-cent rate.
As for Skinopathy, it has an 88-per-cent rate.
“Which is pretty good,” says Loo, who is heavily involved in the Canadian tech start-up community and mentors, consults and advises out of several incubators and accelerators in York Region and Toronto.
In addition to its accuracy, the app is known for reducing wait times, which is another major bonus.
The average wait time to see a dermatologist can vary anywhere from weeks to years, depending where you live in the country, with the national average clocking in at 25.5 weeks.
As for the average wait time through the app, it’s 11.5 days across all skin conditions, including burns and wounds.
“The fastest we’ve been able to help a patient who found us online, in a virtual screening, during a virtual consultation, was four hours. They went in for surgery four hours after, which is something we take a lot of pride in,” says Loo, who is currently working on a new platform for doctors, along with Dr. Hong, as part of the current app.
More than 250 family physicians in Ontario have referred their patients to the app for help when it comes to dermatological conditions.
In addition to his many ventures, Loo also teaches entrepreneurship at York University, where he helps engineering entrepreneurs commercialize their startups, and the Schulich School of Business.
At York University, he helped create Accelerate Newmarket, which is an accelerator for York Region startups to grow and get to the next level.
“I’ve lived here for 36 years and would never consider living anywhere else, but the reason we chose to establish ourselves here is because the region has a very rich history of innovators and entrepreneurs. Establishing ourselves in York Region made total sense because we know there’s a lot of support in our own community,” explains Loo.
“You can speak with other entrepreneurs and learn from their experiences, benefit from their network. That’s the huge upside to working here.”
To find out more about Skinopathy, visit skinopathy.com.