As a Business Developer, Tess Korthout (30) makes sure she understands the data-related needs of scientists and medical specialists and how The Hyve’s open-source solutions can help them out. Her background in fundamental biomedical research gave Tess a passion for open-science and sharing (FAIR) datasets. She joined The Hyve in January 2020. Out of office hours, she’s busy renovating the old farmhouse she and her boyfriend bought last year. But she also likes to down tools from time to time and meet up with friends for drinks or dinner.
Can you tell me a bit about your background?
My initial interest was in Forensic Science but at some point during my bachelor's I realized that I liked the research part of my studies best. So I decided to follow it up with a two-year master. It was a dual degree consisting of one year of Bioinformatics and Systems Biology at the VU in Amsterdam and one year of Oncology at the State University of New York in Buffalo. This also included research projects at the University of Luxembourg and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. I really liked this combined programme as it allowed me to immediately apply my bioinformatics skills to cancer research.
Back in the Netherlands, I started a PhD at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) in Amsterdam to better understand the role of epigenetics in cancer. After finishing my PhD, I did a one-year postdoc at the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht. I have a keen interest in new techniques and this year allowed me to work with a novel technology that sequences DNA from just a single cell. Such genetic information from one cell is very useful for understanding the differences between cells that make up a tumor.
When did you decide to switch from research to business?
Actually, I played with that idea by the end of my PhD. During my postdoc I really had to make up my mind on where to go next. Because of my interest in innovation, I decided to look into various biotech startups.
The Hyve sparked my interest because their open-source software approach supports open-science. Besides, the FAIR principles allow scientists to get more out of their data. One of the things that I found problematic as a scientist is the focus on publications. You gather data for a particular article and after publication, the data basically lose their value. It’s also difficult to share datasets with other scientists. I believe this should change and therefore, I’m very supportive of the open-science movement.
How did you get to know The Hyve?
During my PhD I co-founded the local chapter of R-Ladies, a data-science group in Amsterdam. Through this network, I learned about a vacancy at The Hyve. Even though I had just started my postdoc, I planned an informal visit at the office to learn more about the company. This really sparked my interest for the company, so when Harry called me a year later about a new vacancy I decided to apply.
Tess during the launch of R-Ladies
What do you do at The Hyve?
As a business developer, I’m the main point of contact for academics. So I’m the connecting factor between the Health Data Infrastructure team and our academic customers. This involves maintaining and extending a network of clients, understanding the IT-needs of biomedical researchers and offering them the right tools and services: be it RADAR-base, OHDSI/OMOP or the FAIR data principles. Of course, my science experience comes in very handy when it comes to the question of how The Hyve can best support researchers when implementing open-science and the FAIR data principles.
Is your focus still on oncology and genetics?
Most of our oncology projects are the area of The Hyve’s cBioPortal team. Some of my projects still involve genetics data, but also more general health data. Luckily, these fields are closely related and I have attended many clinical seminars during my PhD. With a biomedical background, getting to grips with medical jargon and patient records is really not too difficult.
What do you like about working here?
I like the wide range of projects the Health Data Infrastructure Team is involved with. On a typical workday, my conversations may shift from cardiology, to Alzheimer’s, to depression. I get to interact with a lot of people on a variety of topics. At first, I had to get used to that. But after finishing a PhD, where you work for years on the same project, it’s a welcome change.
What I really like about the company is the atmosphere. The way colleagues interact with each other. Also, you get rather free reign when it comes to how you want to interpret your job and there is plenty of room to develop new initiatives.
Can you mention an exciting development in your field?
There are several things I could mention, but if I need to pick one it’s the implementation of the FAIR principles. It’s nice to see the concept is getting better known. We’re starting to see that as a result of FAIR, scientists get more out of their data. I really hope that sometime soon we will see the publication of entire datasets.
What do you like to do when you're 'off-duty'?
I like being active: jogging and bicycle racing. I also like to socialize with friends, going out for dinner or drinks. Luckily, we’ll soon be able to go to restaurants and bars again.
Last year, I bought an old, derelict farm with my boyfriend that we’re currently renovating. Everything had to be gutted and built up from scratch. We’ve now tackled the essentials, so the place is livable, but there is still a fair bit of renovating to do. We’ll do that bit by bit as we don’t want to get too stressed about it. I also would like to get lots of animals. We already have a dog and a cat, but I’d like to have goats and chickens once we’ve done up the place a bit more.
Reconstructing the roof of the farm