The best thing about his role as chief executive of health informatics firm Aridhia, Chris Roche says, is “the opportunity to accelerate and have a profound impact on clinical research at scale”.
He explains: “Currently, it takes on average 19 years to get from an idea to something that can be used in clinical practice. The people I work with, our partners and our clients are all trying a reduce that timeframe by collaborating and analysing their data more effectively.”
Such ambitions come after a flurry of announcements last year by the company, which was founded in 2007 and has grown to about 50 staff. Such news includes its data and analytics platform, AnalytiXagility, being selected for use in a “game-changing” £64 million European research collaboration aiming to build a means of efficiently testing innovative treatments to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Roche is expecting more such announcements as 2017 gets under way, having invested in research and development in its platform, which was built for biomedical research, precision medicine and healthcare communities, to enable it stay ahead.
Furthermore, last month saw the business celebrate the opening of what has become its headquarters, in Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, the largest acute hospital in western Europe and set to play a key role in precision medicine activity in Scotland.
The new office is in addition to premises in Edinburgh and houses an expanding team, with the business highlighting “a focus on the development of data-driven, operational clinical services that will benefit patients within Scotland and further afield”.
Roche also stresses that the new site, which enables Aridhia to work more closely with the University of Glasgow and the Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre, that having a physical presence remains crucial despite the growth in remote working. “Being with people and being able to build that collaborative ecosystem and this idea of ecosystem economics is a really good thing.”
His career started studying computing and information technology at Surrey University, in a mixed course covering computing, business, maths, economics and psychology. “I specialised in artificial intelligence, so it was quite a broad-ranging degree.”
Also qualified as a chartered engineer and a chartered information technology practitioner, his CV includes 15 “very exciting” years with IT firm EMC, which has now merged with Dell Technologies to create Dell EMC.
His time there provided “a great opportunity to lead different businesses, to grow. The company, when I joined, had fewer than 5,000 people and there were 80,000 employees when I moved on.” It also coincided with a run of acquisitions, and by looking to move its business model from building specific systems to cloud-based platforms, introduced him to Aridhia.
“We helped them transition from one technology set to a new one and enabled them to bring what is now AnalytiXagility to market,” he explains, with Aridhia co-founder and current executive chairman David Sibbald asking Roche if he would like to “come over and be part of that journey”.
Roche, who is based in Surrey but travels to Scotland every week, was brought in to provide strategic commercial leadership, saying he took with him experience from a corporate background of not just building technology, “but how do you bring it to market, how do you get customers on board, all the usual stuff you should be doing in a business.”
He joined Aridhia in 2014 as chief commercial officer, and was appointed to the chief executive role the following year. As for how the promotion changed his duties, he says: “You are obviously always thinking about not just the operational day-to-day part of the business, but getting that balance between the strategic direction – are we going in the right one – with keeping a focus on delivering, selling and growing the business today and making sure we are doing the right things for tomorrow.”
His efforts are now concentrated on how to continue the firm’s growth and maximise efficiency, looking to release more features onto its platform, and build up its partnership hub, with existing sites in Scotland, England and the Netherlands. “I’m in discussions with other countries about [setting] up a hub there,” he says.
Born: 1965, London
Education: 1st Class BSc Computing and Information Technology
First job: Paper round when I was 13
Ambition while at school: Nothing specific – I just enjoyed school
What car do you drive? BMW X5 – useful for getting to horse events as I’m a keen supporter of Riding for the Disabled and carriage driving
Favourite mode of transport: Horses – I ride most weeks and compete in show jumping whenever possible
Music: Anything country – Van Morrison would be an all-time favourite
Kindle or book? iPad while travelling and reading on a plane but still prefer a physical book to read at night
Can’t live without: A good cup of tea
What inspires you? People with a great attitude who want to get things done
Favourite place: Home