Thanos Kosmidis (MEng Computing 2000) left a job as deputy director of the mobile operator in the Balkans to co-found CareAcross, a company that aids cancer research and provides a bespoke service for a world-wide community of patients to help guide them through the treatments available. He tells us how his time at Imperial has helped inform his vision.
What did you learn during your time at Imperial, in class or out?
"I came to Imperial knowing that computer science is the catalyst for many of the world’s advances that we had already experienced. Quickly, though, I realised that this was just the tip of the iceberg, and that this discipline can be an enabling force for new and exciting developments and for unprecedented progress.
In investigating which field to go into, I visit the library and read on diverse topics like brain anatomy, neural networks, economics, competitive strategy and others. The confluence of all these stimuli, along with the rapid advances in networking and telecommunications, convinced me that this field would really change the way we live, work and play. A variety of courses in my final year instilled that 'connectedness' would be a central element in the future.
Studying at Imperial was a constant exposure to something new, from learning new programming languages (Miranda, anyone?) to applying skills to a group project with no supervision and real, strict deadlines. There was a healthy mix of challenge in learning the theory and pushing it to new boundaries in practice.
What is your fondest memory of your time here?
"There is one moment which is etched in my mind, and it was during a group tutoring session with Professor Ian Hodkinson. We were all struggling to grasp the core methods and processes behind Logic, that 1st year course everyone wants to forget about but cannot. He scribbled a few examples on his board, and it was as if a switch was turned on, as all of us sighed with relief 'oh – now I get it!'
Tell us a bit about the work you’re doing now.
"In 2013, the Greek financial crisis was in full effect, and I was a deputy director at the leading mobile operator in the Balkans, working on commercial strategy. Despite being very happy about our company and its prospects, I quit my job in order to co-found a digital health company.
CareAcross was born to make the most out of cancer data, with a twist: putting the patients themselves in a position to generate and monitor medical outcomes. Patients provide this data anonymously through a secure and private online platform. It's then aggregated in order to help the pharmaceutical industry understand the 'patient journey' and expedite research. For instance, common needs that patients have between treatments are identified, the challenges affecting their families the most, and discovering potential correlations between seemingly unrelated data points (including those that patients rarely report to their oncologists, like taking supplemwnts or alternative medications). This data drives an advanced algorithm for matching patients to clinical trials that may be right for them, enabling them to talk to a specialist about them without feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of options out there.
The platform itself offers a growing number of benefits to cancer patients and their loved ones. It hosts a community of others like them, who understand and can support them in every step of the way. It also stores a set of answers to past questions from patients and users can ask a new question to the company’s panel of experts. There’s also a straightforward assessment of genetic cancer risk, and many other features available now or on the way.
It’s all part of our mission to strengthen and empower cancer patients worldwide. And such patient-centred healthcare is priceless – which is why it is completely free for members of CareAcross."
How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?
"Starting as a software/systems architect, I was applying many of the building blocks that my Imperial courses taught me. When I entered the managerial track, working on teams against tight deadlines, and also appreciating (and leveraging) everyone’s idiosyncrasies, came quite naturally as a result of the team project work on my course.
When I switched from the technology to the commercial side of the business, I realised how much faster I could get up to speed based on a solid foundation of key courses in my final year at Imperial.
Finally, at CareAcross, I have the privilege to work with a diverse team of individuals who are experts in their fields and I remain well-versed in technology thanks to the solid theoretical foundation offered by Imperial, which stands the test of time and tidal waves of programming languages and design patterns.
In fact, every time we consider our vision, Imperial offers its history, tradition and resilience as a model towards an enterprise that can make a difference and can have a real impact to people around the world."
What would be your advice for current students?
"It is a fast-moving world out there. It is fascinating and it is daunting. You have the incredible privilege to face it as part of an extraordinary community – but also the ability to shape it. Make this privilege count: make the most out of every interaction, every new challenge, every pitfall.
And make sure you never get to say: 'I did not dream big enough'