Founders of HipDynamics Davide Danovi & Maximilian Kerz

We are very excited to bring you a new interview for our #FoundersFriday blog series! 

If you’ve missed our previous posts, Founders Friday is a platform in which we interview the founders of different science and technology businesses, asking them to share their advice for others and their perspective on the industry as a whole.

For this addition we’ve interviewed Davide Danovi, lead at the HipSci Cell Phenotyping Unit at King’s College London and cofounder of HipDynamics, a London-born open source, data set interrogation tool in the field of cell and molecular biology. The software facilitates data visualisation and sharing through an intuitive dashboard, contextual analyses, offering data management capabilities between users and research groups. HipDynamics is one of our recent Catalyst Grant awardees. 

Steve Scott, Director of Portfolio Development at Digital Science adds:

“HipDynamics Pro impressed us during the Catalyst Grant process with their detailed submission and the team’s deep domain knowledge. Although at an early stage, their approach to developing the product hand-in-hand with end users gave the judging panel confidence that they will bring a truly useful product to market.”

Tell me about your past – what did you do before entering the world of technology? 

My path is not a particularly common one. I’ve always been in awe of science and I developed an insatiable drive to study and observe the world from a young age. I studied medicine at university which was a wonderful experience. A medical degree is split into a number of stages and nearer the end of my studies, I managed to convince the clinicians examining me that I knew mechanisms and causes so well that I could skip patients’ symptoms and signs – I would not have been a medical doctor anyway! 

I then spent formative years doing experiments surrounded by biologists and this exposure acted as the catalyst for my interest in cell biology. I would ponder over questions like, why do cells divide in suspension? What was equally interesting is that scientists concluded these were either stem cells or cancer cells, and the conclusions that different groups of scientists would draw were influenced by each scientist’s own field. In the last ten years or so, I have been using high content analysis software to make biological sense of images of cells in different environments. Cells behave differently in different environments, as do scientists in academia and biotech!

How did you and your cofounder Maximilian meet?

We met through my friend and collaborator Amos Folarin with whom I have worked with for several years now. Max impressed me with his combination of intelligence, maturity, ambition and his calm nature!  Characteristics like this are very rare to find in anyone, let alone in PhD students.

Can you sum up what HipDynamics does?

I describe HipDynamics as a method to take the dimension of ‘time’ out of the equation when integrating multidimensional datasets. We have used it extensively to collate dynamic images of cells with what’s written in their DNA. It has many other applications in imaging, the life sciences and beyond. 

Why did you decide to create HipDynamics? 

Within the framework of the HipSci project, we needed tools to collate information from several arrays all converging in the characterisation of a large panel of cells donated by healthy volunteers and reprogrammed to an embryonic-like stage. In our group, we had to combine blurry video with detailed images and with genomics information from our partners and we wanted a software that would help us browse and integrate the data.  

If you could go back in time and give your pre-startup self one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

My focus each day is centered around what I genuinely love to do over strategically planning and trying to predict what is to come ahead. Planning has its advantages and occasionally its drawbacks. I’ve managed to create an unconventional career through following my intuition and it’s good not to be overly concerned about what others think of you, but constructive criticism is an essential part of personal and professional development – listening and acting on great advice is a skill in itself.

Remember, ‘The time is always right to do the right thing!’ My Aunt has said this to me many times throughout my life. I recently googled it and is apparently attributed to Martin Luther King.

How can you envision the landscape you work in changing?

The processes found in funding, production and the communication of science are transforming. There are infrastructures in place that will soon allow access to science to become universal with no artificial gatekeeper preventing people from doing so. The scientific landscape and the parameters used to measure it are also changing very fast and this will lead to new and incredible discoveries. My hope is that society keeps up with this wave of change!

To find out more about HipDynamics visit their website and follow Davide on Twitter.