Luca Emili, CEO, and Founder of InSilicoTrials tells us about healthcare and simulation.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Luca Emili: Fortunately, we are all doing fine, thank you.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded InSilicoTrials.
Luca Emili: I have a degree in economics and a very strong passion for technology and innovation. After working for 10 years as a CEO of a cybersecurity company – that I turned into one of the Italian market leaders –, I was lucky enough to stumble upon the increasing use of cutting-edge technology like modeling and simulation to develop drugs and medical devices. I could immediately spot the potentialities of increasing the use of simulation in healthcare, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to repeat my previous successful experience. That’s why I founded InSilicoTrials, invested in the company, and hired managers with great skills in healthcare and simulation.
How does InSilicoTrials innovate?
Luca Emili: Innovation is key to our activity. InSilicoTrials has become a game-changer in the healthcare sector thanks to a unique platform where pharmaceutical companies and medical device producers can access complex technologies in a pay-per-use mode and without any expertise in simulation. Our aim is to significantly cut the time and cost of drug and medical device development. Our platform is also very appealing for CROs, the organizations that conduct clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies because it enables them to offer their clients very innovative services.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Luca Emili: The global pandemic didn’t affect our finances: on the contrary, it boosted our business since it showed everyone the need to reduce the very long time necessary to develop new medicines, and this is exactly what our platform can do. The fact that some pharmaceutical companies were able to develop Covid vaccines in a few months (instead of a 10-year average) shows that we’re following the right pathway.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Luca Emili: No, we didn’t have to dismiss anyone since our business keeps growing. On the contrary, in the last 12 months, we hired 10 new people, which is a relevant result for a small startup. All our employees are working remotely because we believe their safety is the most important thing. We are a highly digitalized company, and we were already used to working from different towns and countries: our international team is based in Italy, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the USA.
About the lessons learned: since the beginning of the pandemic, the many healthcare summits and exhibitions we used to attend all over the world suddenly became virtual. They were our first way to get in touch with new clients. So we immediately decided to expand our Sales & Marketing unit, by hiring 4 very experienced resources. The pandemic has shown us we can do business anywhere – since our platform is on the cloud – and now we are hitting new markets in Asia and the US.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Luca Emili: The differences from the pre-Covid situation are significant, and every company had to reset the way they were creating relationships with customers. Being a startup and promoting SaaS (Software as a Service) make it easier for us to converge to a pure online customer relationship.
Web calls, webinars, online demos are the new normal, and we think that this is going to last for a while. Regarding specific tools, we have adopted Salesforce for prospect engagement and to manage as best as possible all the contacts with customers.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Luca Emili: We received some regional grants some time ago and a small government grant last May during one of the most critical phases of the Covid-19 crisis. We recently won 3 Horizon 2020 projects out of 7 that we presented last year, and this is an amazing result for a small startup. We are currently working on these EU-funded projects – SimCardioTest, Brainteaser, and In Silico World – together with renowned European universities and private companies. All the projects focus on using modeling and simulation to help to find new drugs and medical devices for fighting cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, osteoporosis, tuberculosis, cerebral aneurysms, mammary carcinoma, and covid-19 infection.
Your final thoughts?
Luca Emili: The global pandemic has been, and still is, a time of great difficulty for many people, not only for the loss of human lives but also for the economic consequences. Still, I think we must be strong, learn resilience, and hope for a better future. By wearing masks, do social distancing, get vaccinated, we can fight COVID-19 and reduce its impact on our lives. We won’t ever get back to the pre-pandemic situation, but we can hopefully reach a ‘new normal’ that, being different, could also be better in some ways. Let’s count on this and keep holding on.
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