Working in industrial research is usually very motivating but occasionally it is also frustrating. You’ve just done something really cool but you’re not allowed to tell anybody outside the company about it. Indeed, in a small company there might not be anybody inside of the company who can even appreciate it!
I have worked on roughly 4 really cool projects since leaving academia at the end of 2017. And apart from some basic mentions in my blog (e.g. here and here) most of what I have done has been known only to a few key stakeholders.
There are three basic business models in bioinformatics:
Licencing of insights
Selling a tool
In the consultancy model, you are being paid for your time and expertise. The risk lies with the payer (employer) in this case. There is no guarantee that you will come up with anything useful. Therefore your margins are also low.
Today is my last official day under contract to Fosanis GmbH. I had my first encounter with the founders following my talk at the Digital Health Forum in March 2018. Following that initial meeting I became an advisor, writing a major funding proposal, bringing scientific techniques to the core of the product. In November 2018, following the closure of my own company, I became a full-time member of staff – as Head of Data Science – and led the project on the basis of the ideas contained in my funding proposal.
I took part in Entrepreneur First’s (EF’s) first Berlin cohort last summer. I have largely refrained from talking about my experience, even in private so far, but this hasn’t prevented a lot of people from giving me their opinions on the business model of EF.
The EF hypothesis sounds simple: get enough smart and motivated people together in a cohort and give them the opportunity (time, access to funds, etc.) to start businesses together and some of them will succeed…. bigly.
The venture capital community here in Berlin are not so convinced. Personally I sympathise with their doubts. Certainly from an operations point of view, scaling EF has seen problems. However, as a business model it may be genius.
I trained in Mathematics, not Physics, so I tend to despair when I see physicists presenting their results and focusing on power laws. I used to think, “So what?” Unless you link this data point to some greater insight about the underlying process, “Why should I care?” But I’ve been revising my perspective recently.
I started working at a new job last week. I am now the Head of Data Science at Fosanis GmbH. We’re a startup in Berlin, two years old, and we provide support services for cancer patients. My task is to personalise the approach.
Think personalised medicine, without the medicine. The content we provide has been professionally curated and has been shown to be beneficial to cancer patients. If you speak German, you can try out the content online right now. We will be launching an App-based implementation in the new year.
I want to then take this to the next level. Patients will be treated as a combination of their statistical attributes and their individual trajectories through the interface. From a technological point-of-view, we will be aping many of the approaches pioneered by Facebook. However, we will try to maximise a much trickier to define Quality of Life metric, rather than page refreshes or time spent on the Wall.
This is a really exciting project. I have been looking for a while to find a project where I can apply behavioural modelling approaches to healthcare goals. In a world of rapidly expanding autoimmune diseases I see this ultimately as the new treatment paradigm. What is especially nice is that, in the space in which we are operating there are no real conflicts of interest. I hope that I don’t look back on that statement as hopelessly naive. My impression is that most people in oncology are really trying to make patients’ lives better.
We will be hiring in the first couple of months of 2019, so if you know any talented biological modellers who might be interested, please tell them to email me their CV.
Earning a little money on the side, as a specialist consultant, is one of the hardest things I’ve done in Germany. I’m not talking about the work itself. I enjoy immensely using my skills and seeing a quick return in my impact on projects. I’m talking about the administrative overhead.
I joined Entrepreneur First‘s initial Berlin cohort in April (2018). Through the process, I very quickly met my cofounder and founded Simmunology Limited. We followed the checkpoints laid down by Entrepreneur First (EF), through founding the company, right up to receiving an initial investment of UK£80,000 in return for 10% of the company. Then, at the end of the kick-off meeting, I told them I wanted to shut it down… Continue reading “Simmunology was…”