Bayreuth alumni Chiara Thanner led the development of the app CURIA. The app is designed to provide cancer patients with answers to common questions. It provides information on treatment options, clinical trials and experts. Patients also have the opportunity to apply for clinical trials directly via the app. This creates an important bridge between patients looking for clinical trials and the pharmaceutical industry, which struggles with a lack of patients for many trials. CURIA thus opens up new possibilities for medical information, communication and collaboration. The app already has 14 international ambassadors consisting of patients and relatives, as well as partnerships with renowned organisations.
What is the vision of Curia and what are the next steps?
With the CURIA app, we want to revolutionise the way cancer patients receive information. CURIA answers three key questions that many of them want to know as part of their diagnosis. The patient answers a questionnaire about their diagnosis and then receives current therapy options in Europe and the USA, clinical studies and therapy experts. Our goal is to ensure that every patient goes into what may be the most important discussion of their life fully informed and educated.
Unlike conventional methods, the app format allows us to show newly approved therapies and studies directly in the app. AI helps to keep the app always up to date. Currently, CURIA includes 10 cancer types, which are constantly being expanded. We will also be expanding into the USA in the near future. Here, we have already established important partnerships with cancer foundations. In addition, most of our international ambassadors live there, helping us to further our mission.
What can you pass on to students from your experience as a founder?
I was given the opportunity to launch CURIA as an intrapreneur from an existing company. It felt like a start-up, without question a lot of heart and soul went into CURIA, especially during the launch 4 weeks ago. What helped me most were the first years of my professional life at EY and Goldman Sachs, as I learned an incredible amount in the area of project management, which now helps me to lead a successful team and build structures and processes in a meaningful way. I would advise students to read as much as possible – “Good readers make great leaders.” Be it management, product development, team leadership, there are an incredible amount of great blogs, books and courses that you can use to further your education. It’s certainly a way to save yourself some bad experiences.
What was the catalyst for the start-up idea?
What particularly moved me were the numerous patients we were able to help with artificial intelligence in the beginning as individual cases. These individual cases inspired me and the team to make the technology available to all patients. Based on this technology, CURIA can bring together information from thousands of different sources in near real time in one app. This means that patients can see directly when new therapies are approved or new clinical trials are available. In summary, we have developed a product and a vision from the individual need cases.
How helpful is a network for your start-up?
Especially in the start-up process, the one right contact can make the difference between success and failure. I am still surprised at the great paths that continually open up for me, because acquaintances in my network connect me with interesting contacts or organisations or companies. A network has so many advantages – you can also use it very well for feedback and advice.
How was the process of founding a start-up out of an existing company?
It was very helpful that I had a team directly available to develop CURIA with. The team consists of top-notch developers who work closely with our doctors to create a perfect mix of tech and medical. As CURIA addresses the B2C market, we were faced with many new challenges that I did not know from the B2B market. Another huge advantage of starting a project from a company is of course the financial stability.
In your opinion, is it easier to start up alone or would you rather do it in a team?
Basically, you shouldn’t be discouraged from founding something if you have a great idea. However, being in a team gives you a huge advantage in my opinion, as you can combine different areas of expertise. You have to imagine that you’re starting from scratch with everything – from the colour palettes for logos, to legal issues, to presentations of the start-up at trade fairs and congresses.
What services offered by the university have helped you – what else would you have liked?
I think the campus and university life in general invited me to make many contacts, especially student contacts – these students are now in interesting roles and are also a valuable part of my network.
In recent years, there has been a lot of development in the area of entrepreneurship at the University of Bayreuth and I find the offers available to students, such as the Gründerforum Bayreuth, very helpful, as they ensure that you get the right network and know-how for starting up. I would have liked these offers to have been made more accessible to students when I was a student a few years ago.
Basically, the education at the University of Bayreuth, as the engine of innovation of Upper Franconia, gave me the right tools – sometimes I actually still open the scripts from Professor Schäfer or Professor Olbricht. Looking back, I am very proud to have studied at the University of Bayreuth and can recommend it to everyone as a top university.