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CIO100 2017 #31-100: Chris Duran, Biomatters

  • Name Chris Duran
  • Title CTO
  • Company Biomatters
  • Commenced Role January 2014
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Technology Function 23 IT staff in New Zealand, one overseas
  • Related

    Over the past 12 months, Biomatters has successfully transitioned over 50 per cent of its business from a perpetual licensing model to a subscription software model.

    Chris Duran, chief technology officer, says this is the first stage in realising their vision of being a cloud-first enterprise biotechnology software company.

    Biomatters’ flagship product is a desktop-based scientific software package for molecular biology R&D.

    ''We sell to over 2000 accounts worldwide, including the Top 100 university institutions globally and more than 75 per cent of large pharmaceutical firms,” explains Duran.

    “Our traditional business model was machine-based, perpetual product licensing. We have transitioned over half of our business to a recurring subscription business model, driven by SaaS delivery.''

    The development of these services required a fundamental change in the composition of the technology team delivering on these services. This included the creation of a cloud platform development team, in tandem with a cloud-infrastructure operational unit.

    Biomatters flagship cloud-first service is Geneious Biologics, which is designed for enterprise-level antibody discovery and screening.

    The platform represents a paradigm shift for enterprises involved in antibody discovery for biologic drug development, he says. “It will be one of the first, cloud-based data management and analytic tools for highly specific commercial antibody research.”

    ''To support our cloud development, we have also introduced a new cloud-relevant technology ecosystem,” he explains.

    ''Our cloud platform is built upon scalable systems such as Mesos and DC/OS, using functional programming models, allowing for abstraction and elegant handling of horizontal scalability and concurrency. This transformation is realised through the Typesafe stack, which is a modern, functional, and scalable framework, with the robustness and stability of the Java JVM ecosystem.''

    Fostering innovation

    He believes people are always the source of innovation, which comes from passion and engagement.

    The company holds quarterly ‘EvoLab’ events. These are 24-hour events where anybody in the company can work together or alone on a project of their choosing. The only requirements are that the project either improves the quality of life at Biomatters, or is focused on innovation and/or emerging technologies.

    ''Our board believes that technology is the driving force behind innovation in the biotechnology industry, and as such the technology team has both a powerful remit and correspondingly large set of responsibilities,” says Duran. “The technology leadership for the company heavily influences the strategy and direction of the company.''

    There is an annual strategy offsite with the board of directors, of which a large proportion covers technology strategy and the associated business model.

    The boundary between internal infrastructure and technology and external technologies for the customer-base are either blurred, or removed altogether

    Duran meets regularly with the board, providing an overview of the technology development as well as discussing business, corporate and marketing strategy around them.

    ''As well, there is an internal blog for corporate communication. This is used by all the operational areas of the business, including the technology team, commercial team, and corporate team. We also have product specific blogs to communicate key customer successes and technology progress.

    ''We also extensively use Slack for more adhoc communication and live discussions. We have Slack integrated with our social media accounts, including Twitter. Allowing for team-wide visibility and discussions on current events pertaining to company activities, both internal and external in nature.''

    Duran’s team organises a monthly development talk by product managers. The whole company is invited, giving everyone in the organisation an opportunity to stay abreast of developments in the technical team. This is paired with a quarterly team-wide update, he states.

    He says Biomatters holds an offsite meeting annually, where staff discuss the company’s strategic direction and key milestones for the year ahead. “Being a technology organisation, the technology team are a key participant in this operation.''

    ‘Resident geek’ to strategic business leader

    Duran cites first-hand experience on how the cloud has changed the role of the modern CTO, “perhaps irreversibly, and definitely for the better”.

    “Once the CTO was a minor C-level executive that answered to the CIO,” he observes. “They were the resident geeks. They didn’t interact with the board, nor did they have HR, operational responsibilities. This is no longer the case, and cloud computing may well have been the proverbial precipice,” he says.

    “These days, technology innovation is an integral component of a company's value proposition. This, of course, is most manifest in technology companies.

    “The boundary between internal infrastructure and technology and external technologies for the customer-base are either blurred, or removed altogether.”

    Rodney Fletcher

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