Welcome to Talking Precision Medicine (TPM podcast) — the podcast in which we discuss the future of healthcare and health technology, and how advances in data and data science are fueling the next industrial revolution.
Today we turn the mic around, as our guest Adam Stasio hosts an excellent podcast of his own. Adam’s day job, however, is running SciMed, a boutique life sciences software development company. Adam and Genialis CEO Rafael Rosengarten discuss the state of scientific software, the importance of agility and communication, and approaches to building a lasting company culture.
Come on in and have a listen.
SciMed: How Software Development and Science Meet to Solve Biomedical Problems
- SciMed is a software development company that creates innovative products for biomedical startups and life science companies.
- Their projects include software development for data management and analysis in various fields, such as vaccine development, biology, immunology, 3D surgical implantation, molecular diagnostics, cancer care, mental health care, microbiology, and crop genetics.
- Their clients are mostly universities, university hospital systems, university research teams, and private biotech companies.
“My mission really, is just to have a great place to work and to do a great job for our clients. I want happy employees and happy clients, and a good work environment. And so in a way, it doesn’t matter to me what our clients need or what our employees need. My job is to figure out how to get them done.
So if somebody wants a fence, then I’m going to figure out how to get them a fence. But realistically, we’re helping people solve technical problems primarily through software development and data analysis.”
Building and Enjoying the Atmosphere
- Adam Stasio is a software developer with over 15 years of experience solving complex software development challenges and leading development teams.
- SciMed’s team consists of people with primary background in technology and secondary background or interest in science, as well as some people with science degrees in bioinformatics and related fields.
“It’s very important to me to hire really, really good people. That way, I don’t have to worry about whether they are getting the work done or just fooling around and not paying attention. So I think, in other words, that it’s also a matter of trust. We have a good working relationship. I trust them and they trust me. And then we get the work done.”
- Adam praises the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina as a one of the top biotech hubs with great universities, projects, and people, and enjoys the small and friendly atmosphere that allows for networking.
Communication And Collaboration With Clients
- Adam stresses the importance of building reliable and maintainable software systems that can adapt to changes and avoid becoming expensive or obsolete.
- One way they ensure that the software they develop is maintainable is that the code they produce is easy to read and understand. That can help reduce maintenance costs, reduce bugs and other issues because they try to make it abundantly clear what the code is doing.
“At every stage and level, the number one thing that all boils down to is communication. Are we communicating effectively and clearly with our clients? Are we communicating effectively and clearly between our project managers and our developers? But also, are we communicating clearly in every email that we send, in every design plan and wireframe that we create? Are we communicating clearly in the code that we’re writing for future developers? Are we communicating clearly in the user interface that we build?”
SciMed’s Project Management Strategies
- SciMed follows the Agile methodology for project management, especially for software development, but not necessarily as prescribed by the textbook.
“What I don’t want to do is wait months and months to start building anything. I want to start building things. I want to have something done by the end of the week. And then the idea, the benefit of that, is that people can start reviewing it and deciding if we’re on course or if we need to change course.”
- One of the drawbacks they’re aware of is that Agile methodology can make the team think too short term, not seeing the big picture. Breaking a problem space into smaller problems can be useful, but it is necessary to ensure that the solutions fit together coherently.
“If you spend five years doing requirements gathering, first of all, the business has changed in that time. So whatever requirements you gathered, the business is now doing something different. On top of that, there are a million things that you could have learned in those five years if you had started using something. And instead, after five years, you start using a system and then learn all of the things about your business that you never realized.”
Trends and Expectations
- Adam talks about the expectations and trends of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and how they have grown in the past five years.
- He emphasizes the importance of understanding the data, the models, and the results in machine learning, and how SciMed has to work closely with the clients and examine their data critically.
“I certainly know that machine learning is going to be, and already is, having huge benefits. I sometimes worry about folks who come along and think that it’s a silver bullet and that it’s going to solve everything immediately.
I also want to make sure that everybody’s expectations are realistic about what data we are using to train models, what these models are capable of, what the output means, and what the risks of using it are. So I see huge benefits, but I also worry a little bit sometimes that there might be people who don’t understand all the risks in addition to the benefits.”
- He also talks about the volume of data and how it has increased exponentially, creating new opportunities and challenges for data analysis, storage, and interpretation.
This has been Talking Precision Medicine. Please share our podcast with your colleagues, leave a comment or review, and stay tuned for the next episode. Until then you can explore our TPM podcast archive and listen to interesting guests from our past conversations.