Meet the NCIMI team: Mark Beggs

October 10, 2020


What is your job and what does it entail?

I am joining NCIMI as the Consortium’s Programme Manager. I will be working closely with Claire and her management team to understand the huge amount of work that has been undertaken in the last year and to develop a picture of the status of our Exemplar Projects.  I need to spend time building contacts with our Industry and NHS collaborators to understand the challenges we face.  Over the medium term, I will be developing project management tools that allow us to understand at a dash-board level how our projects are moving forward. I am hoping that my previous experiences in running large scale collaborations for both the Wyeth Translational Medicine Research Collaboration and the Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre will help in this respect.  In the longer term, I hope to be able to help Claire develop the forward strategy for NCIMI. 

What are you looking forward to about working with NCIMI?

I am really looking forward to getting involved in the multi-partner collaboration that is NCIMI and having the opportunity to help our partners develop some effective AI toolsets which in the end will positively impact the delivery of healthcare in our society. Having worked a lot in my past with automation, I am convinced of the value that automation, whether it be process automation or analytical automation, can deliver in terms of improved process quality. Ultimately this approach, through improving data quality, can provide the ability to refine and improve the methods themselves.

What do you think the greatest challenges of your role will be?

In the short term, as the new starter in the team, getting to know everybody within NCIMI and its wider collaborator group will be something of a challenge given the strictures of remote working. The dynamic of not having ad hoc informal conversations with everyone will have to be overcome.  However, the team seems outward going and has been extremely helpful so I am confident this can be managed.

What do you think the future of healthcare AI is?

Looking forward, I believe that precision medicine will become an ever more important and ever-present element of healthcare delivery. As an ex-pharma industry guy, I lived through the years of “one size fits all” blockbuster drugs and the positive impact they had on the industry. However, the early 2000’s showed us that the R&D pipelines were drying up predominantly due to lack of efficacy in clinical trials. At the time this could not be addressed as we lacked the tools to understand individual response to therapy. The advent of low-cost high throughput sequencing technology platforms is changing this perspective rapidly and will provide us with a new armamentum of tools to predict patient response to therapy. This should deliver some real innovation into the development of new drugs.

Tied in with this is the clear need to automate decision making of increasingly complex datasets whether they arise from genomic/proteomic or medical imaging datasets. For maximum patient and societal value to be derived from these tools, we need the automated toolsets to drive rapid and consistent analysis that to date has required the involvement of a limited pool of non-scalable domain experts. I believe this is where the real value of what we are doing with NCIMI lies and look forward to helping the team deliver value from this exciting collaboration.   

What do you do in your spare time?

I enjoy woodworking in my spare time. A hobby I picked up from my father who taught me boat building.  A fair bit of the furniture in the house has come out of the workshop over the years. Boating, in its many guises, is a great family hobby and I am currently teaching our daughter to sail a dinghy at Standlake as well as to paddle a kayak. Canoe expeditions in northern Sweden, Scotland and Canada give us the chance to refine field living skills and a big trip is planned in a couple of years’ time. Big boat sailing is rather difficult these days as Oxford is about as far from the sea as you can get!  When it is not cloudy or raining, we also enjoy messing about with big telescopes in the back garden giving my daughter the excuse to stay up late and eat toasted marshmallows.