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Jayne Shaw, co-founder of BCAL Diagnostics

Founder Firday: A conversation with BCAL Diagnostics’s Jayne Shaw

Many people have ideas and solutions, but it is only a few who are disciplined in their approach, the ability to execute and take risks with an adaptable approach. Never lose sight of the goal and the impact it will have on the community.

Jayne

Meet Jayne Shaw, the Executive Chair of Sydney-based diagnostics company BCAL Diagnostics. Shaw and her team have spearheaded the development of an innovative blood test for early breast cancer detection. 

With over two decades of experience in women’s health, Shaw’s passion for innovation in breast cancer detection has driven the creation of the BREASTTest. The BREASTTest represents a revolutionary approach by focusing on analyzing lipids (fats) that can indicate the presence of cancer—a previously unexplored avenue in diagnostic testing. Shaw envisions a future where cancer detection is simpler, more affordable, and more accessible, ultimately leading to early diagnosis and improved patient outcomes. Given that breast cancer ranks as the second highest cause of death among Australian women, this vision is especially critical.

Developed over 14 years, the BREASTTest not only promises earlier detection but also addresses the limitations of the current standard-of-care mammogram procedure. Misdiagnoses can lead to unnecessary stress, discomfort, and limited access to care. The impending launch of the BREASTTest later this year marks a significant milestone in the fight against breast cancer, offering hope for more effective and patient-friendly diagnostic solutions.

Innovative Breast Cancer Detection

 I firmly believe that with today’s technology, no woman should die from breast cancer.

Jayne Shaw’s journey began from personal grief and a professional realization. “As the CEO of two private hospitals in southwestern Sydney, I witnessed the profound impact of late cancer detection through invasive methods, compounded by the loss of a close friend in her 30s to breast cancer.”

Witnessing these challenges first-hand during her early career fuelled her determination to change the game. This resulted in a revolutionary non-invasive and accurate early detection system for breast cancer. “Drawing on my nursing background, I understand the psychological and physical toll of traditional methods. I firmly believe that with today’s technology, no woman should die from breast cancer.”  This conviction underpinned their mission at BCAL Diagnostics.

Emphasising Innovation and Partnerships

Jayne stated that key decisions which catalyzed their growth included emphasizing relentless innovation and strategic partnerships. Her early days working in healthcare exposed her to a wide range of medical and administrative hurdles. This experience shaped her approach to leadership, where she excels at recognising and nurturing key skills within her team members. 

“My early career in healthcare involved navigating diverse medical and administrative challenges, which honed my ability to identify and foster key skills within our team, such as innovation, scientific data analysis, working with clinicians, and maintaining consistent resilience and adaptability. I also made a personal investment in the company. These experiences, combined with a disciplined yet flexible approach to healthcare innovation, enabled us to build a team and develop a product that could give clinicians the confidence to use the test.”

Jayne’s passion for early detection fuels BCAL Diagnostics’ innovative blood test for breast cancer. Having witnessed the toll this disease takes, she’s dedicated to providing women with a less invasive and potentially life-saving option. 

“The innovation not only stems from our unique approach to the medical challenge but also the consistent disappointment of women continuing to die from breast cancer. My background has instilled a resilient, patient-centric focus that prioritises accessible, equitable, cost-effective solutions, ensuring we provide an additional diagnostic tool for breast cancer alongside the current standard of care, which is a mammogram.”

Overcoming Funding Challenges

Seek the right intellectual capital to address or solve the right problems at the right time

Jayne knew the road wouldn’t be easy. Securing funding for such a groundbreaking project, one that defied the historical 17-year timelines for diagnostic tests, was a massive hurdle. Finding the right team within a budget was another. But Jayne’s unwavering determination to improve women’s health outcomes through early detection led her to a unique solution: passionate philanthropists who shared her vision.

“For the first 10 years, the company’s expenses were dedicated to scientific development and patent protection, while the rest of the team, including the board, volunteered their time. Find what you love and don’t let anyone take away your personal belief and passion. Seek the right intellectual capital to address or solve the right problems at the right time, and never be afraid to ask for or approach more experienced people for advice. 

“Many people have ideas and solutions, but it is only a few who are disciplined in their approach, the ability to execute and take risks with an adaptable approach. Never lose sight of the goal and the impact it will have on the community. If it was easy everybody would do it. These lessons have helped us navigate the intricacies of healthcare innovation, maintaining our commitment to improving patient outcomes through many challenges.”

Lessons from Jayne Shaw

Jayne urged aspiring entrepreneurs: hold onto your dream with passion, but stay open to learning and changing course. She emphasized the importance of never doubting one’s self-belief and having the ability to bounce back after failures and lessons learned, admitting mistakes, adapting, and moving on.

“To aspiring entrepreneurs, my advice is to be passionately committed to your vision while being flexible and open to learning. Never doubt your own self-belief. Have the ability to bounce back after failures and lessons learnt, admit the mistake, adapt, and move on. Always be humble; there are always brighter and more knowledgeable people to learn from. Listen to those who have the experience and have gone through a similar process previously; seek out the right mentors. Continue to be curious, read, watch, and listen. ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.’ Find a good team of people who share your vision and passion, with complementary skills. Work hard and lead by example. 

Shaw concluded that any company is only as good as its team, so it is important to look after everyone. “Any company is only as good as the team, so look after everyone. These experiences underscore the necessity of resilience, a thorough understanding of your industry, and the cultivation of a supportive team to navigate the inevitable challenges of entrepreneurship.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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