A Life Sciences "lifer" with a passion for IT innovation

Name: Steve Shimek

Current role: R&D Knowledge Management Program Director

Company: Allergan

Background: Computer science and technology, with graduate degrees in technology management, business administration and project management

Professional passions: Finding innovative ways to manage structured and unstructured data to create innovative new medical therapies

Offline passions: Anything that gets him outside and moving fast — dirt biking, triathlons, surfing

New medical devices can only get to the market with the help of fresh, innovative ideas moving through airtight processes. In an industry where intellectual property is everything, those responsible for its governance are critical players in the development processes.

Steve Shimek thrives in just this type of role. As the R&D Knowledge Management Program Director at Allergan, a multinational bio-pharmaceutical and medical device company, he's responsible for IT integrations associated with mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and alliances that are a core part of the organization's innovative business model. At any given time, Shimek oversees numerous parallel integration efforts.

It's a kind of role that only a person with great attention to detail and passion for attacking thorny problems can take on.

After a 20-plus year career focused on collaboration and knowledge management, Shimek brings a deep passion for life sciences and technology solutions to his role at Allergan. That's why Box has named him our Innovator of the Month, a customer recognition award that lauds the accomplishments of IT professionals solving big challenges for their organizations with hard work and ingenuity.

The conundrum of unstructured data

Shimek comes to his current role at Allergan from the unique vantage of having a lengthy life sciences career revolving around two seemingly separate subject disciplines: biology and information technology. He holds undergraduate degrees in Comprehensive Biology and Computer Science at the University of Nebraska (on a basketball scholarship) and Project Management from George Washington University. He also completed two graduate degrees in Technology Management and Business Administration at Pepperdine University. Shimek currently holds his PMI PMP certification. Prior to Allergan, Shimek wore a lot of different hats within the life sciences industry, from laboratory management to large, multinational deployments of enterprise content management systems.

At Allergan, Shimek brings his IT mind to a noble endeavor: creating revolutionary medical therapies and devices. "We're in the business of helping people live better lives longer," he says. “And finding better ways to manage and govern information is at the center of those efforts.”

"Intellectual property (IP) related information is the key jewel of our industry," Shimek explains. But IP is a tricky entity. For life sciences companies, it consists of both structured and unstructured data. "People have historically focused on structured data — and that's important," says Shimek, "but when you neglected unstructured data you ended up with information mismanaged."

While governance of structured data has been given a lot of attention, not nearly as much proportional effort has been allowed by life science companies around governing their mountains of unstructured content. As a business and IT leader within the industry, Shimek has used Box to create tight governance around valuable unstructured information enabling scientists to focus innovation allowing them to deliver much-needed medical solutions to those in need.

Powerful, proactive M&A for faster time to market

Much of Shimek's job centers around mergers, acquisitions and partnerships. In his role as R&D Knowledge Management Program Director, Shimek is responsible for the R&D information and related technologies throughout the M&A and partnership integration process. Shimek has been involved in dozens of acquisitions and partnerships, helping new staff transition their data and process to Allergan standards. He calls the people involved "my adopted children" because each net-new company and the accompanying employees are held close to heart as they travel together along the integration journey, with content being at the center of each one.

When Shimek began his current role at Allergan, the company was using SharePoint for internal collaboration of unstructured content, but he found that external partners could not access it behind the firewall and the performance and user experience were not acceptable. Rather than make do with the limitations of this system, Shimek brought in Box to displace file shares used across many data centers. "The goal for our original use case," he says, "was to position a secure, easy-to-use, and fast collaboration solution for our many global R&D partnerships."

Within a few week of vetting Box, he had assembled a pilot. "The solution just worked!" he says. "This initial experience with Box became a launch pad for the secure, easy-to-use collaboration platform that we now have in place for all our R&D partnerships." Now Box is deployed enterprise-wide at Allergan, with 20,000 managed users and another 8,800 external collaborators.

Intentional governance to protect critical content

Shimek hasn't just been responsible for implementing new technology paradigms. He's also taken ownership of how they are used by creating content governance parameters that keep sensitive and critical content secure. Within his organization, Shimek has been responsible for establishing governance protocols and naming conventions to ensure that all content is properly managed and accessible.

"You can't have a bunch of folders called 'meeting minutes', and that is what you get if you allow people to set up their own projects", Shimek says by way of example. Harmonized naming conventions are one of the policies he has instituted to fight against folder sprawl, duplicate content and lost files. Building out a content methodology was the right fit for Shimek, who launched his governance model from the foundation of Box but applied his intelligence and experience to making it stick.

Looking ahead to the future of life sciences

Shimek is looking forward to helping power the next wave of medical innovation on the way. "I think we're going to see a tipping point where patients begin self-monitoring health indicators and have the ability to share that data real-time with their physicians. This will dramatically impact the rate of care and dramatically prevent catastrophic events like heart attacks and strokes," Shimek says.

"These same type of personal devices will also be used ton increase participation in clinical studies while dramatically reducing the cost. This will lead to more and better therapeutics for patients," he adds. "Not only are we seeing wearable devices coming to the table that can measure one's vital signs, but we're also seeing them interact with medical implants and biosensors in real time. We are on the cusp of this new, uncharted technology age where the personal devices meet healthcare and it is very exciting to me."

For this new wave of innovation and growth to be successful, many different technologies must come together in an integrated tech stack for a highly functional and accurate ecosystem. Steve Shimek is one of the IT innovators getting us there.