How a data analytics & AI partner adds value to biotech and pharma – according to Liesbeth Ceelen
25 Jun 2021
Liesbeth Ceelen is the general manager at BioLizard and a mother of three. Before she put her shoulders under the BioLizard project, she had quite the journey…
After graduating with a Ph.D in veterinary sciences, she got her first job at Janssen Pharmaceutica. “This remains a precious experience to me to this day. I now better understand how the wheels turn within the pharma industry,” she explains.
After her experience at Janssen, she made the shift from big pharma to scale-ups. Here she diversified her skills with more general positions: quality, operations, project, and commercial management. “All these different experiences have helped me perform much better in my current role.”
Companies are lacking bioinformatics skills
Prof. Wim Van Criekinge – one of the founders of BioLizard – is a name that rings a bell in the world of computational biology. Liesbeth explains how he played a significant role during the starting days of BioLizard: “Wim noted that pharmaceutical companies were eagerly looking for bioinformatics support. He wanted to solve this need, and reached out to multiple strong & promising profiles within his network.”
“Together, Wim Van Criekinge, Gerben Menschaert, and Jan Van den Berghe founded BioLizard: a company that combines bioinformatics, biostatistics, machine learning, and software development. I joined their ranks half a year later, and with a lot of enthusiasm.” Liesbeth explains.
When asked to look back on the first two years of BioLizard, Liesbeth is satisfied: “We have worked really hard since the start of the company. As a result, in the first year, we partnered on great projects and expanded the team significantly. We also secured clients in Europe as well as the US. Not bad for a start-up with big ambitions.”
However, Liesbeth states that there is always room to grow: “Today we’ve proven to excel in medical biotech projects, like biomarker development and multi-omics data analysis. But we’re expanding on agro & veterinarian projects too.”
Working with BioLizard? You’ll find expert skills, strategy, and pace
When Liesbeth talks about how BioLizard aims to excel in what they do, she identifies three pillars: “The right people, strategic thinking with the client, and keeping up a good pace.”
The right team
“The beautiful thing about our Lizards (FYI. employees of BioLizard) is that we’re a versatile team,” Liesbeth starts to explain. “For smaller and mid-sized pharmaceutical companies, it’s sometimes hard to invest in every type of profile that we have in-house. So while we’re focused on the data side of things, the companies we work for can focus on other parts of the R&D process. In my experience, these collaborations create impressive results.”
Strategic thinking together with clients
Because of this versatile team, Liesbeth notices a slightly different approach to work than she was used to before. “An impressive thing that I have noticed is that our team is very keen on getting into constructive discussions with our clients about their projects. Our Lizards try to discover new ways to approach problems, and internally they help and support each other. For me, it’s extremely valuable that we don’t just carry out the work. We also want to excel”, she explains.
Keeping up the pace
“You won’t find the word ‘dragging on’ in my dictionary”, Liesbeth starts off, “From the first meeting on, even before a sale is made, I want to set the pace. Internally, everyone is on the same line. We like to shift gears fast and it’s in our nature to make work processes more efficient. With our working mentality we aim to speed up our clients R&D processes.”
Staying on top of things
Claiming to be up-to-date with what’s going on in the industry is one thing. But how does BioLizard put in the effort to keep the team on a high level? “There’s a couple of ways how we keep up with what’s going on,” Liesbeth starts.
“The most valuable reason is our team itself. Because we have a multidisciplinary team, we always learn from each other. Every two weeks, we host a bioinformatics meeting where we share what we’ve seen, read, and learnt in our field of expertise. We also invest in training, courses, and attending industry events.”
Liesbeth continues, “Even though our organisation stands on its own, we’re closely connected with Ghent University: one of the most progressive universities when it comes down to bioinformatics. You can say we’re close to the source of information in our sector.”
The biggest compliment you’ve ever received?
“When the companies we work with start calling us partners instead of suppliers. Recurring business is the biggest compliment you can get. It’s proof that the hard work from all members of the BioLizard team is paying off”, Liesbeth proudly says. “These companies really discovered the value we can provide for them.”