Author: Mona Saffarzadeh Edited by: Ruth Sang Jones
Save time and money by efficient documentation
The importance of documentation is acknowledged in almost every industry; it is a means for keeping operations running, registering processes and results, or simply archiving information. Documents usually require significant time from highly qualified people to be properly produced and managed, especially if done by multiple people in a team. Updating and tracking new information without wasting time to review a whole document are still the concerns of everyone dealing with precise documentation. Proper and efficient documentation is highly complex when it comes to managing collaboration among several people, who may not even be in the same time zones or organization. Security when sharing documents is also still a challenge that has not been completely addressed.
In this article, we interviewed Carlos Boto, co-founder and CSO of doDOC, a cloud-based document collaboration, co-authorship & review software for the Life Sciences industry. Carlos explained that doDOC is a useful tool in different sectors, extending from academia to pharma, to environmental and even legal sectors. doDOC is having a huge impact in these industries, not only by saving significant time in the process of document production, but also reducing the risk of uncontrolled disclosures of information, unauthorized access, lack of compliance and auditability. Importantly, we also wanted to know how Carlos transitioned from his PhD to founding a business to support the scientific community.
1. Could you tell us about your background?
All my life, I have been fascinated with the idea of creating economic value through disruptive technologies and by the impact of such projects in society. I do not just enjoy multidisciplinary environments, but I consider them a critical ingredient for fruitful innovation. In my professional and academic path, I always searched for multidisciplinary opportunities; first by pursuing knowledge in informatics and computer science, then learning from the unique knowledge combination offered by Masters in Materials Science and Engineering. The desire to acquire technical and management skills demanded to face new scientific and industry paradigms and challenges through technological innovation led me to a PhD and later on to doDOC.
I concluded my PhD in 2015 in Bioengineering Systems, MIT Portugal Program (MPP), where I developed cutting-edge work based on the convergence research model, applying the tools of Materials Engineering to Nanomedicine development. My thesis was a great example of transversal innovation, obtaining results in a scientific field that significantly impacts the way people currently live and die. During my PhD, I had the opportunity to work and interact with extraordinary people from all around the world, giving me the chance to start, together with my PhD colleague Federico Cismondi, doDOC.
2. What motivated you and your team to start doDOC?
While working on our PhDs, we focused our research on different aspects of the life sciences, including cancer therapies, medical devices, clinical informatics and artificial intelligence. Although these areas are very different domains, we shared common regulatory issues, which were experienced at many different levels. When these scientific areas are developed, they depend on highly complex documentation processes, involving multiple stakeholders at different stages and a significant need for accountability and auditability. Whether such complicated processes are a result of the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, or its counterpart, European Medicines Agency, or similar agencies around the world, documentation processes swamp the scientific advance of life sciences-related companies, increasing their costs and risks. That motivated us to identify a great opportunity for constructing a new paradigm of documentation processes, and doDOC was born.
3. How does doDOC help different sectors?
doDOC enables teams to do what they can't with existing word editors: real-time collaboration when editing, reviewing and approving documents for scientific, medical, and regulatory purposes. With doDOC, several people can work on the same document at the same time while fully controlling and registering what every person is doing. This way, it is possible to have a fully comprehensive audit trail (know who wrote what, when, where and with whom, down to every character). doDOC does not only increase transparency, but also reduces the total time for producing these highly complex documents by up to 70%.
The doDOC platform grants access to predefined or customized workflows tied to specific company processes, deeply granular search capabilities, automatic documentation packages (such as automatically generated data for FDA/EMA forms), integrations with Microsoft Word, SharePoint, Box and Dropbox, and multiple functionalities that accelerate the process of writing complex documents. For example, scientists would find direct connections to citation repositories and full equations and symbols support, while quality and regulatory experts would find a versioning module that allows them to approve and control contents in a fully streamlined way.
4. What were the main challenges of you starting up this company? And how did you overcome them?
Recognizing a problem and proposing a new solution is just the beginning. When we started, we needed to come up with a clear business plan, a funding scheme, a go-to-market strategy and a final product to move from the workbench to the real world.
The transition from an academic mindset to business was also an important initial handicap. We received a tremendous amount of support through world-class accelerator programs that supported the development of the company, provided access to mentors, resources and support to assist in developing a product while communicating with its potential market.
The most significant support for the team was from Techstars Boston. At one point doDoc had already established three of the four necessary pillars but perhaps the most important element was missing: a sustainable funding strategy to hire talented recruits and grow rapidly. In early 2015, doDOC applied and was later accepted to Techstars Boston, one of the most prestigious acceleration programs in the world. Techstars helped doDOC attract international investment from a combination of angels and VCs, which accelerated the evolution of the company and its impact on the market.
5. In your opinion, what are the five essential skills an academic graduate should have in order to start a company?
A hard question, but I would choose: being motivated, skillful, independent, persistent and lucky!