Niels Both

Partner and Data Standardisation & Implementation Specialist, S-cubed ApS

How it all began

I joined S-cubed ApS right at the start, 15 years or so ago now. I’d met Scott McGregor when he came to Denmark 20 years ago and we were worked together well. Eventually, he asked me to meet him for a beer in Nyhavn (it’s a good place to sit and watch the world go by). He told me he had an idea to start a company and asked if I wanted to join. At the time, I really wasn’t looking for a new job, as I was working at Lundbeck and enjoying it.

I was also one of the first people in Europe to be heavily involved in CDISC, volunteering for the CDISC European Coordinating Committee (E3C) and leading on SDTM implementation. It was a great time to be involved and there was an enormous buzz around what CDISC were doing. However, I thought it might be good to use my CDISC skills more broadly and joined S-cubed initially as an employee. It wasn’t long until I realised, I wanted to be more involved and be able to influence the direction and bring customers to the companyat that point I became a partner. 

Working in Clinical Research Data 

I studied Chemical Engineering at university, and I found the statistics really interesting and applying that to clinical data was fun. Somy first job after finishing my degree was working on oncology studies in a clinical research unit (CRU). Here they were doing public research on investigator led trials. It was really interesting, as they had no data management department or statistics team, they just had me looking into all the data. As these were single investigator led trials, I was doing all the work on the data; there weren’t huge databases to analyse and often it was a small scientific study on a drug. However, it was a great way to understand the needs of research.  

Moving into a pharmaceutical company 

There’s a funny twist in me moving to Lundbeck, I actually was going to replace Jack Jacobsen (now a partner at S-cubed), as he had planned to leave the company but decided not to. I had to wait 3 months before I had an interview for a data management role and that’s when I started to get into CDISC more fully. I arrived at Lundbeck at an interesting time and quite quickly moved into leading their statistical programming. Lundbeck regularly partnered with US companies and that’s when CDISC was pushing to get SDTM used for submission. For us it was vitalas it was a way to share data with our partners; prior to that it was a bit like the wild west with everyone wanting their data structured in different ways.  

CDISC Standards & ADaM Instructor

I do tend to find things fall at my feet. I can’t say that I was an ADaM specialist when I started working with CDISC. I became one quite quickly after the ADaM trainer for the EU Interchange in London dropped out and on the Thursday evening before the course, the organisers asked if I could do it. I found myself being the ADaM Instructor on the Friday. Of course, I could have said no, but people had signed up and traveled from all over Europe. Luckily Florence Somers, who was at Business and Decision at the time, also stepped in. Which meant I wasn’t completely alone in front of the attendees. Ultimately, I felt I didn’t really have a choice.  

CDISC has an excellent programme for trainers now and I am glad that I am authorised to deliver the ADaM training. Over the years, I must have spoken at hundreds of events about it. The CDISC European Roadshows were always fun. You’d get asked to come and deliver an overview of what was going on with the standards in some interesting locations. Especially some of the emerging eastern European markets.  

Partnership at S-cubed 

I am proud of being part of S-cubed and all that we have achieved and continue to build. I am lucky that I can still focus on what I like doing, which is being a consultant out at our clients. I am not really one to be on the business development side of running a business. This is because I enjoy working with people out at different companies. I find my role is often that of an educator; providing expertise and building a team for a company so that I can leave behind a good legacy. They often come back to S-cubed when they grow or need support.  

Denmark is a pretty small world when it comes to clinical research, so as you work with different companies, it’s always good to see a familiar face and see what they are now doing. It can also be a stressful world when it comes to multiple deadlines and that’s where I thrive on delivering something that’s high quality and on time. The professional interaction is really important and getting that balance between learning and solving challenges as a team is incredibly rewarding.  

Even with all the things I have done and achieved over the years, I think my greatest professional achievement was being a part of the CDISC journey into Europe. I was on the CDISC E3C at a vibrant time. And I was part of the transformation of CDISC being a niche idea moving it to being a central role in the majority of pharmaceutical companies in the EU.  

Variety is the spice of life 

S-cubed offers me a fantastic variety of work. I don’t have time to get bored as there is always a new challenge around the corner. Alongside that you do get to see all the technical advancements that are coming. I think the use of MDRs and using linked data to rid the industry of tabular structures is coming. There was always be space for traditional SAS programming and excel but adoption of better tools will lead to huge time savings and cost benefits.  

Lottery Winnings 

If I won the lottery, it would all be invested in my favourite football team and I would carry on working. I know it’s a high-risk investment, but it would bring me a lot of pleasure. I am a pretty relaxed person and playing board games with friends and sharing a beer is my idea of fun. You don’t need a lot of money for that. My other way of relaxing is to travel (which is a little difficult right now). I’d love to get back to the Caribbean, particularly Jamaica. It’s such a friendly place, with good people, good food and good drink. It’s the first place I will be off to when I can travel again.  

 However, the moment the restrictions are lifted I am going straight back to the terraces to watch my football team. It’s been the hardest thing not being able to go and see some live football. Last summer we could go to watch, and it was a pretty well-controlled environment with tracking and tracing in place for the virus. But even with all that effort we shut down anyway. It’s great to see some light at the end of the tunnel now and it’s also good to know that I work in an industry that is helping human health. 

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