Fred Turner wants to transform health care, and he’s taking on the system from Austin.
Turner is the 27-year-old co-founder and CEO of Curative Inc., a diagnostics and vaccine delivery startup that has provided more than 35 million Covid-19 tests in 40-plus states and is now turning its attention toward addressing the wider health care system.
“We’re building a new national health insurance company,” Turner said. “A new United or Cigna or Aetna health plan that’s actually focused on preventative care and investing early in people to get better long-term outcomes.”
The plan, which Turner described as “Netflix for health care,” has no copays, deductibles or out-of-pocket costs for in-network care if members complete a baseline health visit intended to encourage preventative care.
Reinventing the American health care system is no simple task, but Turner is no stranger to tough jobs.
The native of West Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom, founded his first company in 2013 at age 18 in the agricultural genomics field, predicting the milk yield of dairy cows. That company was founded in the UK and later moved to the United States.
“That was just kind of an interesting technology,” Turner said of his early work.
In January 2020, Turner co-founded Curative, but its focus was on a small sliver of the health care picture: “The original idea was sepsis,” Turner said. “We were trying to improve sepsis outcomes.”
A few weeks later, the Covid-19 pandemic took hold worldwide.
“We were kind of saying, ‘Well, maybe we can help out with testing,'” Turner said. “The three founders have a background in diagnostic testing. We’ve all run labs before. Maybe we could set up and help with the testing for a couple of weeks until the assault was over, and then we could get back to sepsis.”
Returning the focus to sepsis never happened because Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc, Turner said. But now, more than two years later, the entrepreneur and his colleagues are again thinking about what comes next.
“We started to say, ‘Okay, Covid has had a big impact, but it’s going to be over soon. What are we going to do next? Where are we going to take this infrastructure, the great teams that we’ve built, and put that into?'” Turner said.
There were several considerations, including purchasing an entire hospital or doing clinical chemistry testing, before Curative leaders settled on health insurance as the best way to “move the needle” in U.S. medicine.
In addition to the forthcoming health insurance plan — which will be available to companies with 51 or more employees in Travis and Williamson counties, according to a Sept. 21 announcement — Curative is transforming the Prosperity Bank building at 900 Congress Ave. into Curative Commons, a health and wellness center just a stone’s throw from the Texas State Capitol.
The renovations are underway, and once complete Curative Commons will serve as a medical space where people can conduct baseline assessments, access primary care services and fitness facilities, as well as receive a complete health care onboarding service to educate customers about the entire system and how it affects them.
“We’re really trying to make it easier, and breaking down barriers to people getting care,” Turner said.
What’s it like being a young entrepreneur? Has your age been helpful or a hindrance? I don’t think my age should affect anything, but if I had to choose one, it is more helpful than a hindrance. Being a younger scientific entrepreneur in the health care industry, I believe I have the unique advantage of looking at traditional ways of doing business through a different lens and breaking down problems in a first principles way to come up with the best solution rather than being biased by “the way things have always been done.”
What are your hobbies? Outside of the lab, I like to travel to new places and relax while reading a new book I’ve been eager to read but am too busy to do so.
What’s the most influential book you’ve read? One of my favorite books is “The Alchemist.”
What’s your favorite Austin area restaurant? There’s so much great food in Austin, but Red Ash and Terry Black’s have to be my top picks.
Do you have a mentor, and if so, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned from them? I wouldn’t say I have a specific mentor, but I’ve met many people who have taught me a lot. I would say the most important lesson I’ve learned is that anything is possible. I’ve always had a creative mind and strived for the impossible.
How do you de-stress? A jog around the lake or quick exercise on my Tonal is very helpful. I also like to go out with friends to get my mind off of work — and my cats are very supportive.
Fred Turner
Title: CEO, Curative
Age: 27
Hometown: Brighouse, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom
Education: Studied undergraduate biochemistry at Oxford University, but left early to focus on his first company.
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