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Day in the Life of Keeley Foley, CEO, DnaNudge

Imperial College London spin-out DnaNudge is driving the next frontier in medical and consumer genetics testing. Having taken up brand-new facilities in Scale Space earlier this year, the award-winning scale-up is now ramping up its plans for international roll-out of its point-of-care technology.

DnaNudge’s on-the-spot rapid genetic test analyses users’ predisposition to nutrition-related health traits – including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol – or, for its newest service, individual propensity to skin-related conditions. The digitised results are uploaded to a wearable DnaBean and mobile App, enabling users to scan product barcodes in store and be guided by their DNA, plus lifestyle factors, towards healthier choices while shopping.

During the pandemic, DnaNudge adapted its DNA testing technology to deliver a rapid, lab-free RT-PCR COVID-19 test to NHS hospitals. Today, the company is pursuing an active programme of development in next-generation molecular diagnostics for consumer, healthcare and medical markets, targeting solutions to the most pressing global health challenges – from serious infectious diseases to antimicrobial resistance.

Keeley Foley is DnaNudge’s CEO. A former barrister and specialist diabetic foot podiatrist, Keeley and DnaNudge’s science team have created a world-first diabetic foot infection PCR test, which includes identification of gram positive and gram negative bacteria, as well as molecular antimicrobial resistance tests. The new point of care test can be carried out in under an hour in clinics, hospitals, or even in remote villages in Africa. The aim is to help clinicians rapidly identify bacteria and optimally treat diabetic foot infection – reducing the risks of acute complications, limb amputation and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).


Q: What is a typical day like for you?

A: I am usually awake around 5am, when I begin checking my emails, touching base with our key teams, preparing for meetings, and reviewing the progress of our R&D and regulatory programmes. I work with colleagues in time zones ranging from the US to Australia, as we have live projects in all those locations, so it can be hectic working out who is awake and who is asleep!

I liaise with our Heads of Departments to ensure that they are all well, and to see if they need any support. It’s really important to check in regularly with everyone in our large team – we are a family and need to support each other with our projects. 

On the home front, I make sure my 11-year-old son is on his way (on time) to high school, with his homework in his bag. Major task of the day! My son attends Manchester City Football Academy, where he is on the Under 13s Development Programme. MCFC has a great parents’ lounge with super-fast Wi-Fi and really nice healthy food, so from 6pm, several times a week I can be found in this lounge on my laptop, working and having dinner, until training has finished. 

I don’t live in London, so if I’m going into our office at Scale Space, I head to catch the train to London and White City. Pret is my favourite take-away, so with a coconut milk decaf latte in hand, I board the train for the 2-hour working journey.


Q: What do you love about working in WCID – in three words?
A:
Vibrant, fun, entrepreneurial.


Q: Why have you chosen to bring your business here?
A: Our co-founder is Regius Professor Chris Toumazou, who founded the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London, so our company is very much part of the Imperial community. We have maintained strong connections with the college. As a business, we always want to be at the heart of where amazing things happen and at the centre of world-leading ideas that are turned into reality, so we’ve certainly found the right home in White City Innovation District and its hub of innovation excellence.   

“As a business, we always want to be at the heart of where amazing things happen and at the centre of world-leading ideas that are turned into reality.”


Q: What does ‘innovation’ mean to you and how does your company contribute to it?

A: Innovation to me means harnessing next-generation technology to democratise global healthcare and deliver breakthrough medical and consumer molecular diagnostic systems that are able to rapidly diagnose, monitor, treat – and even prevent – diseases. It’s this focus on life-saving impacts that really drives what we do here every day.


Q: What are you most proud of in your current role?  
A: I’m most proud that we work as a team to overcome challenges and deliver the extraordinary. I am really honoured to be leading such an amazing team of people that astonish me every day with their sheer brilliance, ingenuity and hard work. 

A great example of this is our Diabetic Foot Infection test, which I’ve championed within the business based on my academic work in podiatry, and because I know the difference it will make. Working collaboratively across the company, and in close partnership with our clinical partners, this game-changing idea is now becoming a reality. We’re well on the way to the first commercial delivery in Africa and US FDA applications are in process. The world’s first diabetic foot ulcer detection kit promises life-changing impacts for patients – literally saving lives and limbs.


Q: What is the hot topic in your industry?
A:
There’s been a growing recognition of the need for truly personalised healthcare and shifting the focus away from simply managing acute and chronic illness and towards preventative medicine – actively promoting and protecting health. Our technology innovations have been at the vanguard of enabling this shift, and we’re now seeing huge opportunity internationally, across both our medical diagnostics solutions and our consumer genetics services. So, watch this space…


Q: What’s the best business advice you have for people looking to break into your field?
A: I think, essentially, it comes down to bottom-up management principles – working hard, being determined, keeping a close eye on budgets and finance, working to a plan but being flexible to change and, most of all, listening to your team and understanding and recognising the unique value that each member of your team delivers.


Q: What would Plan B have been on the career front?
A: Well, if you ask my friends and family, they will tell you that I always have many plans going on at the same time! Having already had three professional careers, I never really consider “Plan B”. I remain open to all opportunities and jump in wholeheartedly when they come along.

DnaNudge is always interested in hearing from talented people looking to join its team. For more information, check out the DnaNudge Careers page: https://www.dnanudge.com/pages/careers