Consultant and Business Developer Sukhi Singh

Meet Hyver Sukhi Singh.

In November 2019, he joined the company to build and extend The Hyve’s consulting services with the aim to make biomedical and pharmaceutical data machine-readable, interoperable and ultimately completely FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable). In his free time Sukhi likes to travel. He is an avid mountain hiker; reaching Everest Base Camp was the highest point so far. And be sure to invite Sukhi to parties. He knows how to get the party going as a DJ.

Can you tell me about your background?

I’m born and raised in Punjab, North India, near the Himalayas. I did my Bachelors there in Biotechnology which taught me the basics of applied science. To gain practical knowledge, I concluded my studies with a number of internships. One of them was in Germany. It was the first time I came to Europe and it turned out to be a life-changing experience.

For my Masters, I decided to go to England because of the fantastic fusion of culture, music and great food along with a number of finest universities. As I always had an interest in computers, Bioinformatics proved to be the perfect combination of IT and Biotechnology which I pursued at the University of Leicester. Afterwards I moved to London and worked at Imperial College London for about a year in different fields of applied bioinformatics, from immunology to neurophysiology, proteomics, and genomics.

I then decided to apply for a doctorate at the Max Planck Institute in Dresden. By the end of a week of grilling interviews, I found my mentor, a reputable name in the field, who I ended up working for six years on yet another field of epigenetics. He also had his own cricket club and legend has it that we clicked because I played cricket. I never ended up playing for that club, although I got my doctorate.

The PhD was a truly enjoyable experience. We had a very international community with people from over sixty different countries with regular events. I also pushed out on Indian association community with others that attracted interests from hundreds of people of mixed heritage and we organized great parties with me DJing. Besides that, I was running a hiking group and played frisbee in two clubs. So really a nice mix of activities.

Sukhi and other PhD students of Max Planck Insitute during a PhD retreat in Poland.

After my PhD, I decided it was time for a new challenge. I wanted to do something in the plant world and The Netherlands is the place to be. I found a job in the north of the Netherlands, at a company called HZPC. They are the biggest potato breeders in the world. The company was doing a lot of advanced genetic experiments, producing lots of hybrid data. I got to set up state-of-the-art pipelines to handle and analyse all the datasets.

After some time, I reached my point of knowledge saturation. So again it was time for a new challenge. I decided to move to consulting because it is such a special role. Really dynamic, every project is different. Also, I wanted to move further south, to a bigger game and different players.

How did you get to know The Hyve?

I was actually looking for a consulting company that operated within the biomedical domain and worked with pharmaceutical companies. I wanted to work either in a small or medium enterprise, not a large multinational company. The Hyve fit that bill so I sent in an open application. I soon got an invitation in return, met most of the team leads and upper management in subsequent meetings, ended up at The Hyve and I have been here for a year now.

What do you do at The Hyve?

I am in the Health Data Infrastructure (HDI) team. Within HDI there are two branches: Real-World Data and Biomedical Data Services. I’m part of the Biomedical Data Services branch. I support biomedical scientists and pharma companies in their digital transformation programs. In other words, I help them handle and manage their data. This involves data strategy, data governance, research data management. The FAIR principles have become a benchmark for these kinds of projects. Clients like that The Hyve is tools and technology agnostic. We can work with any system, stitch applications together while maintaining the data flows, fill in the gaps and make data human and machine-readable.

The consulting part of The Hyve was not yet fully developed when I joined the company, so in the past year we established and standardized this workflow. I really have a multi-faceted role and initially it proved quite a challenge to balance all the different aspects of the job.

The majority of my work is client-focused: identifying business needs, but also overseeing the execution of a project and maintaining customer relationships after the completion of a project.

Information technology is evolving so fast that part of my time is spent on attending conferences and reading publications to see what other people and companies in the field are doing and keep my knowledge up-to-date. I often need to be fully open minded and look across domains such as the applicability of blockchain technology in healthcare and what can we learn from fast-paced and volatile financial markets on data handling, et cetera.

I often advise clients to build knowledge graphs to link their data. You could say that this job allows me to build and enrich my personal knowledge graph; I can finally connect the things I’ve learned over the past ten years working in various biomedical domains.

Sukhi and his colleagues at The Hyve

What do you like about working at The Hyve?

Before the corona outbreak, I really enjoyed being in the office with colleagues, having lunch or ‘borrels’ together, or going out for drinks. I also liked that the completion of a project was always celebrated, with the project manager ordering a treat to mark the occasion.

Because of corona things have changed. The colleague-touch has gone down. I can’t travel and meet clients in person anymore. At first, I found that quite difficult. Now I have accepted this fact. Meetings have all gone digital. We keep the same schedules, talk to the same people, complete projects. But it is all happening digitally now.

I’m directly working with Kees van Bochove (founder of The Hyve) on most of the projects and I really enjoy working with him because of his visionary attitude. Also, I find some clients with the same visionary qualities working in different domains and solving different challenges. This is a great experience.

Can you mention an exciting development in your field?

In the scientific world, people are really starting to understand the value of data. Earlier, data was produced with some specific research question in mind and not much reused. Now, there is much more of a focus on reusability. You work with raw data to answer a specific question, but then revisit the data for a different question. To achieve reusability, first the data must be findable as it may already exist, maybe in parts, in different places. That’s why linking data is so important. This process with custom flavours requires a certain knowledge, and infrastructure needs to be in place. At The Hyve, we build that for our clients. The next step is machine actionability and interoperability – how AI and machine learning algorithms can find the data and operate on them without direct human guidance.

A lot of these developments are captured by the FAIR guiding principles. It’s good to realize that people were already working on some aspects of it even before it was called FAIR. FAIR really assists in making data human and machine accessible, readable, interoperable and actionable to support algorithms and drive business decisions. I think that is quite an exciting development as I expect you will see applications of it everywhere in the coming years. I’m thinking of smart devices (Alexa), in and out-gaming ecosystems, e-commerce, legislation, voting, drug development, et cetera. Data is data but linked data is exponentially insightful.

What do you like to do when you're 'off-duty'?

I actually love mountain hiking. I used to run a hiking group while living in Germany. Every week, I would take a small group into the mountains known as Saxon Switzerland, because they look a bit like the Swiss Alps. Earlier, I used to go to Iceland and Norway regularly for eco-conservation projects. My biggest hike so far was a year and a half ago to Mount Everest Base Camp, Nepal.

Mt Everest Base Camp, Nepal (5550 mts)

And then you moved to a flat country without opportunities to mountain hike.

Yes, my hiking dreams were crushed. So I picked up biking. I also love playing frisbee. And I’d always wanted to do DJ-ing, so I took that up during my time in Germany and played around the whole country.

Does that mean that whenever there is a party at The Hyve, you can do the DJ-ing?

Exactly. I’d be happy to do that!