I was one of three boys, and together we were always up to mischief. We built remote control cars and raced them and spent hours in our treehouse in the local woods near our home in Bavaria (Germany). My father introduced my brothers and me to science kits that were full of chemicals, which had a big impact on my life. It all really started there. I loved to experiment, setting up chemical reactions, and watching things change and evolve (and explode!).
When I decided to study biochemistry many years later, it didn’t come as a surprise to my family. I wanted to learn about how science is evolving and how that might shape things to come. While cancer research wasn’t on my radar yet during my studies in France, I ended up at a groundbreaking institute in California where I really started to dive into the field. After that, I got my PhD at the University of Oxford, researching the basics of cell division, and how things going wrong during that process can lead to cancer.
I love bioinformatics and the concept behind it – in particular the science behind making data more efficient. It’s known that the fundamental part of cancer is mutational cell division; not just how it begins, but also how it progresses. There are all these oncogenes, but what happens during cell proliferation? To me, this question resonates with those I asked myself as a child with my science kits. What is the component in this reaction that is making it go wrong or enacting a problem? Understanding cancer truly is about understanding inefficiency beyond the cellular level. At this point in my career, I felt like a lot of people were thinking about it, yet only SOPHiA got it.
When I started at SOPHiA in 2016, I realized that I had not been mistaken. In my previous position as a Field Application Scientist at Thermo Fischer, I was always a bit frustrated by delays in the validation of assays. Joining SOPHiA, I immediately found the model proposed by the company to be very efficient: because the technology is cloud-based, it’s really easy to set up programs, allowing our partnering institutions to use our solutions in routine very quickly. This, to me, is really inspiring.
A few years back, I was an ambulance driver as part of my civilian service in Germany. This experience changed my life; seeing people suffering and being in the front line makes you want to do more and help further. At SOPHiA, we go this extra mile; it’s obviously way different than driving an ambulance but following the patient path you can make a big impact on a lot of people, and also literally save lives.
Sometimes, when observing from the outside, we think certain researchers are so quirky about one little thing. Why would they spend their entire life on a single peptide or a protein? But in the end, this is actually what will bring breakthroughs. And it’s the coordination between science and pharma that makes it all happen. The breakthroughs are not necessarily built by pharma alone – they are results of research. I see this as a fundamental part. We can empower the next breakthroughs with our discoveries and technology.
Now my kids are starting to create their own science experiments in the backyard. I love to watch them as they enjoy the same early lessons as I did, and that they have passion for combining things until they create a solution. I hope that they never get sick, but I think what we’re building at SOPHiA will benefit my children and the generations to come. We’re creating a community that is already connecting research efforts around the world. SOPHiA is a catalyst for solutions.