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Deep Data Diver

From a degree in political science to an expert in healthcare data – how?

At first, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer so I studied political science at university. But I very quickly realized that I definitely did not want to be a lawyer! After graduating, I spent a couple of years in investment banking and then I became interested in research. This was in the mid to late 90s when the Internet was rapidly rising. It didn’t take a lot of imagination to realize that putting a data or research product online would get you a lot of traction. So that’s what we did – we set up a research company and our healthcare products became our most popular line. We sold the company (Sagient Research) to Informa in 2012. And looking back at my degree, although it wasn’t the most direct path it has served me well. Political science is a subject where you need to understand how to read and write – and that’s essential given that I am so data-focused today.

What inspired you to focus on adverse drug events?

Simple – my business partner’s wife became sick from an adverse drug event. And the deeper we dug into the problem the more we realized that there was very little information in this area that was easily searchable. The FDA does have an adverse event database but it has several problems, so we saw an opportunity to create a clean database. Because of our background in data analytics, I think it was easier for us to figure out the way forward than it could have been. But it still took us 18 months – we had to clean up millions of side effect reports to form a useable database.

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