Being a CTO for a healthcare technology company

As CTO of Healx, Ian Roberts covers all areas of planning, business, opportunities, product and maintenance.

“Each is equally necessary to achieve business goals,” according to Roberts. “I prefer to focus on tech strategies that enable the accelerated translation of rare disease treatments, be that in developing our predictive AI platform, HealNet, understanding the actionability of data or developing tools which empower patient foundations to find treatment faster.”

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Healx uses AI exclusively to focus on finding treatments for rare diseases. The technology platform, HealNet, allows users to predict therapies with much higher accuracy and safety, many times faster. Roberts and his team are integrating a range of machine learning technology in a more impressive way, with a particularly strong and diverse interdisciplinary team, at the right time.

Having a deep belief

“From an academic perspective, it’s useful to have a broad knowledge of translational research, from basic-research to clinical trials, and with a focus on computational biology and AI,” according to Roberts.

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“More importantly, it’s about having a deep belief in your product. For instance, a belief that our solution to the rare disease medical area will deliver transformative change.”

“After that, it helps to be good at influencing others to share the same belief. Perseverance and communication are vital attributes to the CTO role.”

AI talent

The problem of finding and retaining AI talent is a significant challenge facing all CTOs working with the technology. Operationally, finding, hiring and retaining AI experts is a continuous hurdle to overcome.

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“It’s an employee’s market,” explains Roberts. “Smaller Biotechs struggle to match the salaries of Big Business. More personally, it comes down to focus and ensuring we keep developing the best AI platform for drug discovery out there. This often means making tough choices, and not pursuing other interesting opportunities.”

Engaging more closely with the market

The role of the CTO has always been a strategic position, focussing on identifying and realising technologies that deliver the medium, and longer-term goals for a company.

“Being effective means recognising the sector needs and aligning with a technologically driven solution, often six months in advance,” says Roberts.

“For AI-driven technologies, the timing of the product development cycle is ever decreasing, forcing more agile practices, and requiring the CTO to engage more closely with the market, not just from a technology perspective but also business development.”

See also: Cloud data and security — what every healthcare technology leader needs to know

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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