Behind the Business with Datatrial
Bdaily goes behind the business with Emma Banks, Chief Executive Officer at Jesmond-based Datatrial, who provide proprietary software solutions to the clinical trial industry for their international customer base.
What key challenges has your company recently faced?
Funding: Until recently, accessing external funding has been challenging; this has been a caused by a combination of Datatrial’s history, timing of the application (when the funds become available), and the changes in the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) rules.
Multiple currency trading: This is always a challenge – we operate in three currencies and have to carefully manage exchange rate fluctuation to minimize any potential losses.
Recruitment: This is a consistent challenge for many businesses. We are also not located in the traditional part of the country for recruiting clinical trial staff, but we have developed some really good links with our local universities and find we can recruit graduates and train them. At this point we are looking for specific attitudes rather than technical skill. Recruiting software developers is challenging and although we are in a great region for developers, there is a lot of competition.
Getting the word out: Over the past two years, we have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure we have a clear message, a new website and refreshed branding. We are proud of our technology and our team and know the customers we work with feel the same but we need to continue to scale up our message.
What is your biggest achievement over the past 12 months?
Datatrial was recently acquired by an investment group in the US. This has probably been the most important achievement for the business in my tenure as CEO. Our future is bright, without doubt.
What is your most important focus for the coming year, and what do you hope to achieve?
Our software development plans will come into focus now with the addition of a significant number of new developers to the team. This will drive our research and development strategy which is where our main focus will be. In support of this, the service side of the business will grow with a much bigger focus on the USA as a market to further expand into.
What excites you most about your industry and business?
The pharmaceutical industry has historically been well funded and recession proof but since the last recession has realised, through reduced funding options as well as big blockbuster drugs coming off patent, that drug (and other product) development has to be more efficient. Drug pricing is a major challenge as pressure is applied to justify value that goes beyond the cost to develop.
We work with data – data are the most important asset to companies developing drugs and a whole industry has grown up around that. Unfortunately, it has become very complicated and dis-jointed in places. We have a huge opportunity to change the paradigm, both with our software and with our people.
What do you wish you’d known when starting out?
When I took the CEO role in 2011 I had been in the business for a number of years but nothing prepared me for the delayed impact of the recession on Datatrial. We have learned the hard way how to survive; to become leaner whilst retaining quality; and what I appreciate now, in hindsight, is the passion and support the leadership team of a business can offer and how important that is in good and bad times.
We are onto the next phase now. We are in a healthy position financially and with more opportunity ahead of us than we have ever had.
What will be the “next big thing“ in your industry, and how do you plan to handle it?
As a both a challenge and an opportunity, we are going to be faced with more and more data. There is much talk about mobile technology use in clinical research. There are some regulatory hurdles to overcome but this could and probably will change the clinical research landscape. Datatrial already make use of fully scalable and compliant cloud services for data processing and storage. We are well placed to be able to handle much larger scale data volumes when mobile technology becomes more prevalent in the clinical research setting.
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