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Exclusive Interview: Dr Christian Bannister, Digital Health Labs

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Dr. Christian Bannister, the Chief Science Officer at Digital Health Labs, has been talking with us at Business News Wales about the Life Sciences industry, the development of Digital Health Lab’s data analysis platform and the impact of Brexit on Life Science Projects.

Digital Health Labs is a Cardiff-based small and innovative data consultancy specialising in pharmacoepidemiological research and development of interactive analytical software for real-world healthcare datasets. Dr. Christian Bannister is the Chief Science Officer at Digital Health Labs.

1) Why do you think life sciences is such an exciting sector to be involved with at the moment?
We can see a lot of exciting opportunities from advances in science and technology. A growing number of companies are employing those in innovative ways.

2) What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?
We will be expanding our research consultancy business while also expanding our portfolio of innovative data products and services, to drive data-driven research in a robust and repeatable way.
In terms of opportunities we are fortunate because the UK has world-leading data sets. However, there are barriers to their use, in terms of whether commercial entities might be granted access to them and the cost of that. Needs differ between clients and projects. If these barriers could be reduced more research could be done.

3) Tell us about yourself and your business.
I am the Chief Science Officer at Digital Health Labs. I am a biostatistician, and have worked in both academic and commercial biomedical research. I co-founded Digital Health Labs with three other like-minded individuals to provide data products and services to the life-sciences sector. We offer a number of services, such as research consultancy to pharmaceutical companies, in areas such as pharmacoepidemiology, health economics and outcomes research. As well as conducting research, we also develop IT platforms for managing and analysing research data.

4) What is exciting about your particular field/area?
For us what’s really exciting is those opportunities that are posed by the application of these ever-growing patient-level data sets. It’s the marriage of data and technology improving evaluation of interventions that result in better patient outcomes.

5) What new innovations and developments can we expect to see soon?
Digital Health Labs is currently developing a data analytical platform. Specific elements we are rolling out will enable the development and analysis of study cohorts, evidence synthesis and economic modeling.

6) What challenges does life sciences face in the next five years?
The big one is the impact of Brexit. There are going to be challenges around the uncertainty of that decision. We are involved in research projects that benefit from EU funding, and our client base is spread across the world. What does that mean for research funding and how easy or difficult is it going to be to trade with our global clients? We don’t know yet.

7) What advice would you give to anyone who is interested in working in the life sciences sector?
Our experience has been that it’s a truly interdisciplinary endeavor. You need that mixture of disciplines, such as clinicians, pharmacists, statisticians, programmers. If you can offer a range of skills and experiences across disciplines you will be very well suited.

8) What do you think are the most important qualities for success in the life sciences sector?
Client focus is an important quality. You need to understand their needs. Collaboration is also important. Through collaboration with different organisations we have benefitted massively from the life sciences community in Wales.