Dr Gunjan Bhardwaj is the Founder & CEO of Innoplexus AG, a pioneer in using artificial intelligence and blockchain for drug discovery and development. When his best friend and mentor was diagnosed with cancer, Dr Gunjan started searching for answers to questions like what other treatments are available, what clinical trials could be suitable, who are the top experts for the cancer stage, and type and stage. Nothing seemed appropriate to the queries he had, and he realized that this is the experience of millions of people around the globe. After they founded Innoplex together, an AI company that drives drug discovery with pharmaceuticals and biotechnological companies, they created CURIA, an app to bring the technology to cancer patients and help them navigate their journey to recovery, giving them access to information about treatments, clinical trials, and cancer experts.
For tailored answers to the most pressing questions for cancer patients, CURIA uses AI with 34 patents and 100+ patent applications to scan terabytes of data daily, organize it and extract cancer treatments, clinical trials, and experts. Together with a team of medical experts, this data is then curated into an app to empower patients to make the decisions that will impact their cancer journey. “With CURIA, we’re constantly posting campaigns and blogs to help patients understand that they have the right to understand what’s happening to them, to ask every question they have, and keep pushing until they feel satisfied with the path their treatment journey is taking,” says Dr Gunjan.
Bespoke answers for each patient
CURIA brings technology to patients to help them navigate their cancer journey, giving them access to information about treatments, clinical trials, and cancer experts. “The team we have is based across Germany, the US, and India and is an inspirational group of passionate advocates for patient wellbeing who have brought the app to what it is today. We have medical experts with over 60 years experience in Oncology, alongside data scientists who build and optimize our artificial intelligence and help extract the content for the app,” Dr Gunjan mentions.
Patients in the app are given a questionnaire about their cancer type, stage, and demographics and then receive information about treatments, clinical trials, and experts tailored to this profile. With this data, CURIA comes up with information that is unique to each patient. This empowers them through their cancer journey and enables them to have more productive discussions with their doctor and make important decisions that affect their treatment.
With more people seeing the inside of a hospital more often than before, the pandemic has created an unprecedented interest amongst the public in disease progression, management, and drug discovery. Now, people want to know more about their health status and manage their own wellbeing and have a say in how they avail themselves of treatment. Thus, information needs to be constantly supplied to increase reliability. This highlights the importance of trustworthy and audited information about healthcare. “The pandemic has shown possibilities for how the healthcare sector can collaborate to bring the best for patients and the public. We’ve seen more industry players working together, with each other and with government or other public organizations. This collaboration in the interest of bringing therapies to patients faster is a huge positive which I deeply hope will remain after the pandemic,” says Dr Gunjan.
After starting his education in Rajasthan, Dr Gunjan finished his undergraduate degree at IIT Bombay. During his time there, he realized that anything is possible by being inspired by people around him who took industry-defining career paths. He later moved to Germany on an Academic Exchange Service to study at Pforzheim University, where he had the opportunity to begin his career as a consultant. He interned at EY in Tax Advisory Services, where he met his mentor and friend, who brought him to the idea of Innoplexus.
CURIA was started to rise to the challenge of healthcare with optimism, a world-class team of experts, and determination to bring the best outcomes for patients. Dr Gunjan started his entrepreneurial career at the age of 18 when he decided to sell bean bags with a friend in Mumbai. “I learned that the key to entrepreneurship is in doing. There’s a lot of thinking, learning, and reading, but the core for me just tried it out, and if you fail, you fail, and you try again,” says Dr Gunjan. Through his firsthand experience, he realized how to build Innoplexus and CURIA, taking account of the gaps in healthcare and develop a solution. This helped him to be relentless in his pursuit to build a business that creates a real impact. “I am a hopeless optimist and believe that everything is worth a try; if you believe it can change the future for the better. Obstacles will always be in your way, and no human being can tackle all of them, but by staying positive and thinking smart, they won’t matter in the long run,” Dr Gunjan says.
The road ahead
For an app that was launched just a year ago, CURIA prides itself on the impact they have made with patients. By building Innoplexus to advance drug discovery, 14 discovery programmes were completed with clients that yielded massive benefits in treatment in disease areas like antimicrobial resistance, COVID-19, non-small cell lung cancer, and myocardial infarction, to name a few. In addition to this, CURIA brought vital technology into the hands of over 160,000 patients who benefit from the app across the globe and helps them through their cancer treatment.
CURIA continues to grow by expanding to more countries and building a bigger ecosystem called OncoCoin that will open new possibilities for patients in the app. Especially in India, CURIA aims to offer second opinion services to patients, a vital part of a cancer journey that usually isn’t easy, and internationally, is often almost impossible. “Through CURIA, patients will be able to purchase a second opinion from a leading oncologist on our panel, helping them to decide which treatment path is right for them,” says Dr Gunjan. The team at CURIA continues to innovate in ways that will bring more resources and possibilities to patients, support them in advocating for their health, and building the best treatment journey for them.