Chemical engineer Stéphanie Roland founded Saana, a start-up that proposes cancer-fighting diets. This is a portrait of an atypical entrepreneur.
When she moved to New York two years ago, Stéphanie encountered local fare made mainly of processed foods. Helped by her training as a chemical engineer, she immersed herself in the scientific literature and discovered the astonishing links between nutrition and cancer. Overnight, she changed her diet, favouring unprocessed plant-based foods. ‘It’s estimated that 85% of cancers are caused by external factors such as lifestyle and diet. That means we have the power to act.’
But you have to know how. Her entrepreneurial intuition sensed a gap that needed bridging. She created Saana, whose mission is to give patients weapons to repel cancer. ‘With experts from around the world, we created an algorithm that recommends the ideal diet based on the patient's profile.’
Stéphanie is no beginner: before crossing the Atlantic, she launched two businesses in Belgium. The trigger was UCLouvain’s Interdisciplinary Program in Entrepreneurship (CPME). ‘It was great’, she says. ‘Building a business model, a marketing strategy, was new to me. It sparked my passion for entrepreneurship and gave me the tools I needed to get started.’ This atypical career enabled her, at 29, to combine two passions: learning and entrepreneurship.
Stéphanie Roland, master’s degree in chemical engineering and materials science, 2013. Master’s degree in entrepreneurship (CPME), 2013
This article appears in the December 2019 - January-February 2020 edition Louvain[s]