Tech Tonics: Data Scientist Eric Perakslis, “I Build Stuff.”

April 24th, 2017 |
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“I build stuff” is how data scientist Eric Perakslis modestly describes his breathless career, a journey that’s taken him from industry to academia and back again, with a brief stop at the FDA.

Eric’s first job after college was at a small combinatorial chemistry startup in Boston, but he was soon recruited to J&J, where he spent more than a decade, embracing roles of increased responsibility that focused on the management of distributed information. While there, he set up tranSMART, a pioneering open source clinical data warehouse for deidentified genetic and phenotypic data.

Eric then joined the FDA, and in a short but productive year and a half there, developed a high quality technology strategic plan for the organization, advanced their cybersecurity posture, helped them begin to move towards the cloud, and worked on the implementation of Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA), completing over twenty FDASIA-related IT projects in just a few months.

The next stop for Eric was Harvard, where he joined (future Tech Tonics guest) Zak Kohane and helped establish the Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI). In his spare time, he also helped implement the data sharing platform supporting the Undiagnosed Disease Network. (Note: Tech Tonics co-host David is an adjunct/Visiting Scientist at the DBMI.)

More recently, Eric was recruited back to industry, motivated by the prospect of working with the exceptional science team Takeda has brought together (including several of David’s former colleagues from Merck). Eric is currently SVP and Head of Takeda Data Sciences Institute, and is focused on creating a unified data science platform for the organization.

Eric has achieved much of this while combating a diagnoses of primary renal cell cancer, which was first identified while he was at J&J, and which recently recurred, but again responded to a treatment approach Eric describes as “whack-a-mole.” According to Eric, his diagnosis “doesn’t dominate every aspect of my life – I view it as a chronic illness, and there are a lot worse things. I feel grateful, and I appreciate the cancer has given me a greater connection to what I do.”

This episode of Tech Tonics is sponsored by DNAnexus, the secure and compliant cloud platform that enables enterprise users to analyze, collaborate around, and integrate massive amounts of genetic and other health data.

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