Introducing the Sogeti Life Sciences Team
We’ve been busy lately here at Sogeti Ireland. Adding to our already busy portfolios in IT, we’re expanding into the pharmaceutical and medical technology sectors, and hiring new consultants with a huge variety of skills and backgrounds. Sogeti is known for leading innovation, and our life sciences team will be no exception. Since this is a new department, we’d like to take a moment to introduce three of the key players on the team.
Department director Xavier de Bustos was an unlikely addition to the life sciences world. With a background in politics, history and law, he admits that he sort of fell into the industry by accident. Naturally curious, Xavier’s main focus as a consultant is on innovation. He likes to get to a product or process’s central value, examine it closely, and then find a way to improve its function. Over time his career focus narrowed to the life sciences industry, where cutting edge advances are being made every day. He’s acutely aware that the delivery methods and processes for these often life-saving devices need to be constantly reinvented in order to stay competitive in a changing market, and as a consultant this is what he strives to bring to the table. “At the end of the day, you’re a part of teams that are creating products that change the lives of people all over the world. It’s incredibly meaningful work.” And being involved in this change is what drives Xavier to continue to grow and build teams in the field.
Similar to Xavier, the first two consultants to join the Sogeti life sciences team bring a sincere passion for the work they do and an acute understanding of how their day to day efforts contribute to the industry overall. We sat down with Matt Hedges and Fiona Chung to hear about their backgrounds, what motivates them and where they see the industry going in the next few years. Here’s what they had to say.
Matt is a senior consultant with a background in material science. Now don’t be worried if you don’t know what that means, because I didn’t either- but Matt has a way of breaking it down to the basics. He grew up with a natural aptitude for chemistry, physics and maths, and while he’d planned to study chemistry in university, a trusted instructor recommended material science. He went through his studies, all the way up to the PhD level working on the manufacturing, processing and modification of materials such as plastics, metals and ceramics. “If you think about it, everything from a car to a house to a medical device needs to have a scientist behind the scenes somewhere during production to ensure that those materials are fit for purpose- and that’s what I dedicated my time to studying.” His projects were focused for the aerospace industry, processing novel alloys in a way that would allow them to withstand higher temperatures for longer periods of time. It was this research that helped him land his first job following his PhD with Altran (a consultancy which, as it happens, recently joined the Capgemini group.)
Moving to Ireland and into the life sciences world was a bit of a shock for Matt, who admits that without much previous exposure to anything related to medicine, he felt like a fish out of water at first. But very quickly he became well accustomed to the standards of regulation he’d be working with for the rest of his career. “Anytime you’re putting something into the human body, the quality requirements instantly increase exponentially. If something goes wrong, a medical device can kill the person it’s meant to help. But over time you get so used to the level of detail and the regulations that you bring that mindset and approach into everything you do.”
From Matt’s perspective, the more experience you have with regulation-centric thinking, the more you can help transfer that mindset to the people around you. “A lot of my background has been in research and development, and when you’re in a lab the environment is totally controlled. The challenge is moving into a manufacturing environment where there are suddenly tonnes of new variables- all of which can have a huge impact on your product. As a consultant, my job is to identify the differences between the lab/manufacturing environment and then control for them at scale.”
Sounds pretty cool, right? Over the years Matt has specialised in vascular work. He’s been involved in projects that have found ways to slowly release drugs on stents for blood vessels and arteries, essentially stopping the body from absorbing the devices over time using drugs that could be poisonous in the wrong dosage. He’s worked on heart valve replacements and pacemakers, looking for new therapies that could drastically reduce the cost, time and risk of major surgeries. For Matt, there is a never-ending opportunity to make a difference in the medical device industry. “There’s always some new therapy, covering areas that you might not even imagine. Small adjustments to products that have been on the market for a long time can have life-altering impacts on the end users, the patients, and the work that we do needs to respect the issues that they’re facing in order to ultimately provide them with long-term solutions.”
So, what does Matt see as the future of the medical device industry? Connected devices. Think of the smartwatches people wear that monitor heart rates and calorie burns- these devices are becoming commonplace and in the next few years, advances in technology will mean that they can do even more. “Imagine devices that both the patient and their surgeon can constantly monitor, like a device for diabetes that will release insulin automatically when the body needs it, or knee replacements that can adjust themselves based on the patient’s gait and usage.” For now, there’s a lot more work needed to get to these devices to such medically advanced stages- but that just means more motivation to continue discovering and progressing in the field.
Fiona is a quality and compliance specialist with a diverse background of experience. She studied biopharmaceutical science in college and got her early experience working in clinical trials, ensuring compliance during the sterilization process. She’s worked on prototyping medical devices, as well as been involved in manufacturing the industrial components that actually make medical devices. After gaining a much wider exposure to the life sciences industry overall, she settled on completing a master’s degree in chemical and biomedical science.
Fiona has a very personal connection to her career that’s twofold. For one, she’s witnessed loved ones accessing inadequate and inaccurate care- to their detriment- out of desperation to find a cure to their health issues. In fact, the availability on the market of drugs and treatments that are not fully approved lead to serious complications for her family members who simply didn’t know any better. In trusting what was available on the market and presuming it was safe to take, their health was seriously compromised and it was an uphill battle to get back on track.
On the other hand, Fiona herself suffers from an autoimmune disease and has had to advocate for herself over the years to make sure she fully understands the impact any potential drugs will have on her. She’s witnessed first-hand how significant (and daunting) the healthcare system is for people who are, in a sense, already in harm’s way. “When people are sick, they’re already vulnerable and in a position where they need to be able to trust the tools and resources that are supposed to be there to help them. You’re supposed to trust that those resources won’t make you sicker. When you need access to healthcare, though, you have to put your faith into a system that you probably don’t understand very well, and you essentially become helpless.”
So, Fiona approaches her responsibilities with an extra sense of duty. She feels it’s up to her, as a part of the healthcare system, to ensure that what can be done right is done right. Most recently, during the Covid-19 crisis Fiona worked tirelessly on a diagnostic test kit project, going well beyond the typical requirements of her job in order to help get it on to the market safely during such a critical time of need for patients. “It was a huge responsibility to be a part of that project, but it was very fulfilling. When you’re watching the news and seeing the impact of Covid all over the globe, it feels very meaningful to be able to contribute something the effort, in whatever way possible.” Her goal is to work towards a position where she can ensure that the healthcare products that are being signed off as safe to enter the market are actually safe to do so. Having seen the impact of unsafe drugs, this is a responsibility she wants to take into her own hands.
Similar to Matt, Fiona sees a move towards intelligent industry. She believes in the ability of AI and automation to transform the manufacturing industry to a more automated one that will provide for more control, more efficient processes, less error and ultimately an industry that can guarantee quality. “There’s naturally a bit of a negative connotation- when people hear automation, they think of job loss, but actually I believe automation is going to have a positive impact long term by making healthcare cheaper. What good are these advanced solutions of the patients can’t access them? So, by automating parts of the process that can be automated, over time we’re going to be able to help more people achieve a higher quality of life for longer.”
So there you have it! A brand-new department within an already busy consultancy. As our life sciences team grows and expands, we’ll take some time to sit down with other consultants to show off the innovative new projects they’re working on too!