How many times in a career are you offered the opportunity to help build something new from scratch? To imprint your own thoughts and visions on it, and help shape it from the bottom up? That’s what I asked myself when I was offered the chance to lead an ambitious new programme called the Healthcare Data and Analytics Project for Boehringer Ingelheim. The role was too good to pass up, so last year, in the middle of a pandemic, I relocated from London to Biberach in southern Germany and joined the Global Computational Biology and Digital Sciences (gCBDS) team.
Our aim with the Healthcare Data and Analytics Project is to maximize the data that comes from external population-scale biobanks, and not only ingest them but extract knowledge, such as information about genetics, biomarkers, disease insights and targets. We then use that information to transform how we select, segment patients, design and run our clinical trials, making them more personalised and allowing us to tailor drug develop to the patient.
“My goal is to never stop learning, to always challenge myself and take on projects that push me outside my comfort zone – and in my new role, I’m certainly in an agile learning mode.”
I’m still at the building stage, to attract and hire world-class talent to help us deliver this exciting data programme, but our ultimate goal is to use ‘big data’ to help personalise medicine development for patients. That’s really, for me, the end goal – delivering better medications for patients.
Boehringer Ingelheim has always approached R&D in a data-driven way, but now we’re working to enhance and accelerate this even further. This initiative will allow Boehringer Ingelheim to be on a par when it comes to data-driven decision-making. This position might be viewed as a disadvantage, but this will allow us to learn what others have done, build upon these learnings and move forward in our own way.
I’ve worked in the industry for 30 years, supporting and leading projects, and eventually working in innovation. It was then I came to understand data is really where the opportunity lies. It helps you not just to predict outcomes and save you time doing routine empirical testing, but it helps you to really understand your processes, and to drive and deliver the innovation you need.
My background isn’t in data science – it’s in chemistry and biochemistry – so I had to educate myself in this space, to learn from data science experts, and at least to know how to ask the right questions. My goal is to never stop learning, to always challenge myself, taking on projects that push me outside my comfort zone – and in my new role, I’m certainly in an agile learning mode!
I’m really excited to be leading this innovative data program at Boehringer Igelheim. I haven’t worked on a data programme on this scale before, especially one with this level of investment and commitment all the way up to board level, so I’m looking forward to seeing where we can take it.
If you’d like to join Boehringer Ingelheim’s thriving data science community, we’d like to hear from you.