Finding your role and purpose within clinical genetics
Jussi Paananen · Feb 21, 2019

Developers, software architects, data scientists – the rarest of commodities in the current hot employment market. As an employer, how do you differentiate yourself from all the other interesting opportunities out there? To me, as the Chief Technology Officer at Blueprint Genetics, the answer is quite simple. We really provide a sense of purpose to software development professionals.

I got my first computer and started programming when I was 6 years old. I was always interested in computers, programming, hacking, computer art and games. I always knew I wanted to work with computers, until I didn’t. In 2002, I had a bit of a retrospective with myself, and realized that I did not just want to spend my life programming something like accounting software for A Corporation but wanted to do something more meaningful. I became interested in biomedicine and then was drawn to the massive amounts of data hidden in human genomes and the related computational challenges. This passion finally took me to Blueprint Genetics, a genetic testing company where I work with a team of software developers, interacting daily with our interdisciplinary team of bioinformaticians, data scientists, geneticists, and other professionals.

Our customers are clinicians who work with patients. When they suspect a disease with a genetic cause, they take a sample from the patient (blood or saliva being the most common) and ship the sample to us. We prepare the sample and process it using the latest DNA sequencing technology, creating massive amount of data that is then processed in our data analysis pipeline. Then the data are imported to our in-house–developed software platform, where our geneticist team interprets the data and creates a clinical report of the findings, hopefully identifying the genetic cause of the patient symptoms or disease, and therefore helping the real client, the patient.

Genetics is fascinating: a field that generates the most data in the world. A proverbial Holy Grail for those who want to work with data. It creates a lot of challenges but also great opportunities, like the development of artificial intelligence and machine-learning–based solutions, to name just two.

Artificial intelligence has the potential to truly change the way we do things. But for now, it’s mostly just hype. Our team strives to change that by improving scalability of genome interpretation services through machine-learning–based automation. Our main projects include speeding up variant classification, meaning automating the identification of DNA variants that cause inherited diseases. These are practical solutions to a practical problem, but the future looks even cooler.

Hype aside, our tech teams have one thing in common: the sense of purpose. We actually help people. For example, a lot of the patients we try to find answers for are small kids, in the earliest stage of their life, suffering from a devastating and rare disease. It might sound like a cliché, but the sense of purpose beats the success of business any given day. We are being weighed for our impact on patient care and society at large.

This sense of purpose, in addition to a couple of other things, made me want to join Blueprint Genetics. Those other things were The People, and the possibility to achieve work-life balance. The team at Blueprint Genetics is just awesome! A heterogeneous group of professionals with great attitudes and plenty of laughter. And for me, the fact that the company was willing to adjust to the needs of my personal life and family was a deciding factor. As a manager I try to enable, encourage and support others to also find this balance!

Our software development team works on improving our in-house software tools, developing new features and products, helping to integrate information systems, solving challenges related to scaling and improving our overall operations and service. Today, we are big enough to take on the challenge of solving the problems of future healthcare and have the resources to develop and acquire the technologies and tools we need. But we are still small enough to stay agile and the constant change and growth of the company allows us to become even more data- and software development–driven.

To achieve this, I’m always searching for full-stack developers, front-end developers, software architects and bioinformaticians: people who understand modern software dev tools and technologies, cloud technology and how to work with massive amounts of data.

As one of the fast-growing start-up companies in Europe1, we provide a wide-range of opportunities to make your mark and get on the fast-track to advance your career. And if you are like me, you might just be surprised by how fulfilling the work can be, when you are working with stuff that matters!

Jussi Paananen
Executive Director of ADx Technology
Blueprint Genetics

Jussi Paananen has MSc in Computer Science/Software Engineering (2005), PhD in Molecular Medicine (2012) with over 60 peer-reviewed international scientific publications. He has co-founded two biotech start-ups and was a visiting scholar/research affiliate at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in 2006–2011. He started programming with Commodore 64 when six years old.

  1. WIRED: Europe’s 100 Hottest Startups 2018. > Helsinki
Last modified: October 30, 2020