17 Dec TomoTherapy: A Marriage of IT and Biotech
Accelerate Madison hosted a discussion this fall entitled, “The Happy Marriage of IT and Biotech.” I wanted to know if information technology (IT) and biotechnology are happily married, just living together, or having a one-night stand. So, I talked with John Barni, CEO of TomoTherapy, and asked, “Does IT give his company a competitive advantage?” TomoTherapy, a biotechnology company in the medical device capital equipment sector, is revolutionizing cancer treatment by targeting the radiation to an exact location; thereby reducing the number treatments a patient receives and reducing the cost of treatments.
The use of information technology gives TomoTherapy a competitive advantage in two areas: products and business operations. Mr. Barni related that software not only drives all of the company’s equipment, but it provides a competitive edge in the mining of information about patients’ diagnostics; predicting problems with hardware before they occur and escalating their resolution before the customer knows there’s an issue; and identifying best practices. TomoTherapy also excels in the use of information technology in the traditional areas of software development, such as database development, data warehousing and customer support.
In business operations, Mr. Barni said, “TomoTherapy will streamline its order entry processes by implementing an integrated financial reporting system.”
As a manufacturer, TomoTherapy relies on just-in-time inventory controls to reduce and contain the cost of ordering parts. TomoTherapy uses online seminars to demonstrate its products and to provide product updates to customer. Barni said the online seminar technology enables TomoTherapy to reduce its cost of sales and provide quicker and better services to its prospects and customers. TomoTherapy also has developed in-house sales contact management software allowing sales reps and senior management access to up-to-the-minute information about the sales pipeline and milestones that must be reached to close the sale.
There are opportunities for local IT consulting and application development firms to do business with TomoTherapy. Barni states his company will work with firms that bring solutions to the table that will help TomoTherapy to reduce costs and get products to market sooner. It is imperative that his business partners and vendors understand TomoTherapy’s business. Barni said, “TomoTherapy is not a biotech company. It is a software development and manufacturing company.”
Information technology allows TomoTherapy to exploit the Achilles heel of its largest competitor. “TomoTherapy responds quicker to customer request; they anticipate customer concerns and resolve them faster, and it has very good technology,” Barni said.
Cynthia R. Cauthern, Ph.D. is the Chief Customer Officer at Beacon Technologies, Inc. and a student in the M.S. in Biotechnology program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She can be reached at email@example.com.