Social Business in Action: Professor Eugenio La Mesa for CureThalassemia
Thalassemia is the most common generic mortal disorder in the world with 100,000 children dying each year. It is mostly found in the Middle East, Africa, and South East Asia. Each patient with thalassemia needs a bone marrow transportation (BMT), which was invented by Italian physician and professor of medicine Guido Lucarelli in 1984.
La Mesa first learned about the disease from a friend who shared information on the causes and the victims, as well as on charity organizations that work with sick children in high-risk regions. In 2009 La Mesa went to Pakistan as a volunteer for Cure2Children, an Italian foundation that helps children with serious diseases. Upon reading the book Creating a world without Poverty by Nobel Prize Laureate, professor, and banker Muhammad Yunus, La Mesa reached out to him. They soon met in person and reached an agreement with Yunus’ Grameen Bank. Yunus is also the author of Building Social Business and the chairman of Yunus Centre – a foundation dedicated to social business. La Mesa talked about the other co-founders of CureThalassemia – an Indian cardiac surgeon and the founder of Narayana Health -a chain of 21 medical centers in India- Devi Shetty and Pietro Sodani, inventor of BMT from a haploidentical mother (in case the thalassemia child doesn’t have a compatible donor from within family or from a bone marrow donor bank). Thanks to CureThalassemia, after 10 years of hard work and countless blood transfusions, the first child with thalassemia major, a 13-year-old Syrian girl named Sidra, was completely cured. Today, CureThalassemia offers free advice to every affected child and their parents from anywhere in the world through their website. It is also possible to meet Dr. Sodani in India for a free consultation. La Mesa also mentioned the partnership between CureThalassemia and Charité – the largest university hospital in Europe located in Berlin, which helps cure child refugees from the Middle East and Africa.
Professor La Mesa concluded by sharing advice with students who are interested in creating a social business – “Start small, but think big. Try to find a niche where there is little to no competition.” He also advised the class to check out the TedMed talk by Pietro Sodani and his own talk on TedxBologna at the end of the lecture.