Inside Look: Appistry

Making a name as a data-services company isn’t as simple as providing analytics solutions. Kevin Haar says it begins with understanding your customers and making those solutions work for them.

When Kevin Haar came on as president and CEO of Appistry, the company was adrift in the crowded world of analytics. A former employee of Rational Software and a veteran of many growth organizations, Haar’s vision would take the company on a journey, turning it from another “big data” company selling analytics technology into a customer-driven company using its analytics technology to build applications for a specific market.

Appistry’s location in St. Louis, Missouri, made the genomics market a natural fit, though recalibrating the company’s approach was a more delicate process. Haar’s first step was to dive into the genomics market to understand its needs, and by extension the needs of Appistry’s future customers. “In any business, there are shareholders, employees, and customers,” Haar says. “For us, the customers are definitely the most important part, since they drive success for all of us.”

Haar’s foray into this market revealed three key ideas that would drive Appistry’s product pipeline. First, genomics researchers didn’t want to be told what tools to use, but wanted the power to select the best tools for the task in front of them and retain the power to iterate without having to become computer experts. In response, Haar partnered with the Broad Institute to deploy its next-generation sequencing (NGS) analysis tools, leveraging Appistry’s own expertise to facilitate rapid implementation and support researchers in using the tools.

“The investors and the people that work here are the ones who keep the momentum rolling, and they see that they’re helping save lives every day.”

Appistry’s second discovery was that researchers lacked an infrastructure for managing and running analysis pipelines at scale. In response, Appistry developed Ayrris, which harnesses the company’s big-data management expertise to integrate a researcher’s NGS analysis tools in one place, with the ability to scale the pipelines to run on developer workstations or across in-house computer clusters. Appistry can also host tools and information in the Appistry Cloud, so that researchers can focus on the science behind their work without worrying about the physical infrastructure needed to house their data.

Having met the needs of genomic researchers, Haar and his team’s final realization was that a gap still existed between the development and deployment of genomics tests for use in patient care. Only major research hospitals have on-site capability to carry out tests, leaving physicians at smaller institutions unable to use such tests to inform patient diagnosis and treatment.

For Haar, this presented less of a data problem than a logistics problem. Appistry CloudDx aims to close this gap by providing a web-based platform for doctors to order tests from leading developers that analyze a patient’s genetics or the nature of a tumor. Appistry CloudDx orchestrates all of the services needed to deliver tests, so that hospitals can implement them easily and measure their impact on patient care. “CloudDx is a first push into a space where we can make a big difference for our hospital partners,” Haar says.

Employees at Appistry can feel the difference, too. They now understand that the satisfaction in their work comes not just from solving the problems of big data, but doing so in a way that helps physicians better serve patients around the country. “The investors and the people that work here are the ones who keep the momentum rolling, and they see that they’re helping save lives every day,” Haar says.

Haar’s gambit into genomics is a pivot many companies wouldn’t have survived. But with the transition complete, Appistry is now able to continue growing into its new identity. No longer does the company consider itself a big data company. Instead, thanks to a relentless understanding of the genomics market and the gaps that technology could fill, Appistry is establishing itself as an enabler of next-generation, genomically enhanced medicine.