The Beautiful Nature of Science and How We Advance It With Radiomics

Nayef Idrissi

Growing up in Dijon, France I have vivid childhood memories of autumn days, walking through the golden grape leaves of my beloved Burgundy. Even in those early days, I knew I appreciated the beautiful things nature offered around us. Even more, I loved learning how those beautiful things in nature actually worked and could be explained through science.

I was raised by two math teachers, so my introduction to the world was often through the perspective of numbers and how they make sense of things. My mom and dad encouraged the mathematician inside me who was always so awestruck by the engaging demonstrations during science days at the University where my father taught. When math and science came together through experiments and technology right in front of me, I could see the beginnings of what I’d come to love.

By the time I was a teenager, mathematics, life sciences, and physics were my passions. I prepared intensively for the national exams and ultimately attended Ecole Centrale Nantes. I received a Master of Engineering with a specialization in biotechnologies. There was plenty of work, which kept me busy. With the sometimes-limited free time I had, I became involved with an initiative called BRIO. It was a program that allowed me to mentor much younger students who hadn’t been given the opportunities in life I was lucky to get from my academic parents. This is where I could first experience the benefit of my work having a direct impact on someone else’s life.

I went on to work for a medical technology company in Munich, Germany for about 7 years. In my various roles I was able to focus on the needs of the users who could benefit from our technology, but I wanted to get more exposure to the sales and business side. I knew that I wanted to work for an innovative company. I found that innovation is really the DNA of SOPHiA GENETICS. The philosophy of SOPHiA was just a perfect match in terms of role, in terms of mindset, culture, value and technology.

Since joining the company, I’ve had experiences that have confirmed I’m in the right place. One moment I will remember for the rest of my life: I was at the JFR Radiology meeting in France in October 2019. After I’d given my presentation about SOPHiA Radiomics for Oncology, a radiologist in attendance came up to me and explained their impression of what we’d developed. “This goes beyond simply automating our workflows. What you’re giving us is the next level of information we’ve needed,” they said. Much like my BRIO days, I could once again see a direct impact from work I contributed to on this person’s face and I knew that everything I’d been trying to accomplish in my career was happening.

With the COVID-19 global pandemic, many of those same radiologists I’ve met have become actors in COVID-19 patient management. Over time as more and more patients were treated around the world, our partner radiologists told us they’d been performing many more CT scans related to the virus. We knew that our Radiomics solution could be specialized as a useful  implement for disease quantification. As ICUs around the world become overpacked, a comprehensive technology to better and more quickly determine whether someone needs intensive care could be less taxing on the limited medical resources during a global pandemic. Since those initial discussions, there have been publications that demonstrate how Radiomics can be used for COVID-19 prognosis strategy. With SOPHiA Radiomics for COVID-19, researchers could gain additional data from scans that are already being done on the frontlines against the virus.

I’m proud that we decided to help fight COVID-19. Tremendous and amazing teamwork made it all possible. What we’re aiming at is to provide researchers with the technology to access that next level of information they would not be able to see with just their own eyes. At SOPHiA GENETICS, we put numbers to work in ways that lead to further efficiency. It’s been an extremely rewarding challenge and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re reaching impressive milestones and I’m eager to reach the next.