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Using technology to collaborate on DNA testing

A fast-growing molecular diagnostics company operating in South-east Asia, Asia Genomics, uses Dropbox to manage highly technical teams from the lab to the finance department

The work culture at Asia Genomics encourages staff to work collaboratively across departments. "We wanted to keep information secure while allowing staff to access the files that they needed, easily," says Lionel Lim, scientific director for Asia Genomics.

EVER since the discovery of DNA sequencing methods in 1957, scientists have suspected that human genomes can tell a lot about us. With the dropping price of genome testing, Asia Genomics aims to use that knowledge to help customers with their health and contribute to a market predicted to be worth US$25 billion by 2021.

The company provides genetic testing services across six countries around Asia. They range from cancer, reproductive, and wellness testing. Advanced health testing means that individuals can test for genetic pre-disposition to certain inherited cancers, and can also help doctors prescribe more effective drugs for late-stage cancer patients.

Asia Genomics also helps deliver personalised wellness insights. A simple saliva swab can provide a tailored wellness report with a person's genetic predispositions and recommendations. Personal trainers and elite athletes will examine the results to create tailored workouts, supplements, and lifestyle plans.

The company has seen remarkable growth in the past year, and have almost quadrupled its staff from 20 people to 70 people. The company's success is thanks to its innovative diagnostic offerings that are transforming healthcare through the power of biology technologies.

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With employees conducting clinical testing in six countries around Asia, sensitive data needs to be kept safe and compliant with government regulations at all times. In addition, the working culture at Asia Genomics encourages staff to work collaboratively across departments. "We wanted to keep information secure while allowing staff to access the files that they needed, easily," says Lionel Lim, scientific director for Asia Genomics.

Prior to Dropbox Business, staff used a mix of personal Dropbox accounts, shared drives as well as file servers. "Our team is scattered across Asia, so we needed a platform like Dropbox Business to share and collaborate on files . . . We need to create marketing materials for our technology partners and doctors. We partner with overseas technology providers and need to localise all materials and forms to different languages across Asia. This requires a lot of collaboration between sales, marketing, and legal teams internally and externally."

Keeping information secure and in-line with compliance requirements of licensing and accreditation agencies became a challenge as the team grew internationally. "Dropbox Business enables us to comply with data protection and other medical testing guidelines," Mr Lim adds.

Remote functionality

The team is also able to work more seamlessly with its team of diverse experts, doctors, and partners. The company prides itself in being open-plan and collaborative, just like a start-up, so it makes sense that its file storage and collaboration solution would enable collaborative working. Switching to Dropbox mirrored that open system, making remote working a reality. With the team spread across South-east Asia, being able to access files offline and wherever they're working, made remote working much easier.

Asia Genomics soon realised Dropbox Business solved a host of additional problems beyond file storage, from secure collaboration to productivity solutions, file version management and, above all, security.

"Using Dropbox Business is much easier than connecting to a VPN (virtual private network). We're able to access offline, which makes working while travelling much easier," said Mr Lim.

Switching to Dropbox Business helped mirror their start-up mentality, with an open digital environment matching their office so that every team can work together. "With Dropbox we are very easily able to assign folders to individual teams. We are very open and flexible as an organisation, keeping in mind data compliance and security," Mr Lim added.

Dropbox Business helped Asia Genomics promote collaboration while reducing unnecessary emails. As Wong Mun Yew, the company's founder and CEO, explains: "Dropbox Business helps overcome the problem of having six different departments feed back in the one document. Everyone can view tracked changes."

Dropbox complies with universal security standards, routinely tested by third-party auditors for public transparency reports. This helped solve Asia Genomics' thorough security requirements. "As we're in the medical testing space, we are required by the various licensing and accreditation agencies to be compliant on personal data protection. We can share folders among the different teams and know that only the right people have access," says Dr Wong Mun Yew.

The final result is that international teams in one of the most data-sensitive industries on earth can operate as if they're in the same room. "In terms of productivity, we can operate much faster as a team using Dropbox Business."

"Security and access is vital to us and we needed to become compliant with requirements from the various licensing and accreditation agencies, which is why we chose Dropbox Business, " added Dr Wong Mun Yew.