Tuesday 17 September 2019

Belfast data firm helping staff leave England ahead of Brexit

Challenge: Diaceutics CEO Peter Keeling says recruitment is hard
Challenge: Diaceutics CEO Peter Keeling says recruitment is hard

Shawn Pogatchnik

MEDICAL data analytics firm Diaceutics says it is expanding rapidly in Belfast, Dundalk and Asia - but seeing scientific talent emigrate from England because of Brexit.

Leaders of Diaceutics, which has its main Irish operations in Dundalk, told the Irish Independent they are aggressively recruiting data, artificial intelligence and information technology graduates from universities and technology institutes north and south.

Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

They expect to increase their all-Ireland workforce from 50 to 65 by the end of the year as part of wider expansion which will grow Diaceutics's global work force by 44pc to 125.

Diaceutics CEO Peter Keeling said the greatest challenge facing the company was recruitment and retention of specialist staff - not Brexit.

"We're an all-island business and we're trying to recruit the best graduate talent across the whole of Ireland. Our Dundalk and Belfast teams are central to our operations," he said.

"Our clients are global and 70pc of our revenue is priced in dollars, the rest in euro. Brexit and the price of sterling have little or no impact on our revenue flows."

The company's chief financial officer, Philip White, said the demand for data specialists in a tightening Irish labour market was driving up the company's cost of investment in new and existing staff.

"We have had to spend more money on our data analytics people. Our average cost per hour has had to increase by 5pc to get those people over the line. There has been an impact," Mr White said.

They said Diaceutics had recently helped three of its non-UK national employees based in England to resettle in France and Switzerland because of expectations they would lose their residency post-Brexit.

"We're very much supporting our team as they look individually at the Brexit crisis," said Mr Keeling.

"We can see less talent coming to the UK post-Brexit," Mr White said. "That will cause a squeeze as companies try to attract that talent."

They were speaking after publication yesterday of Diaceutics' first earnings statement since its £17m (€19m) initial public offering in March and listing on the London Stock Exchange's AIM index.

The company posted a loss chiefly because of IPO costs.

For the six months ending in June, its pre-tax loss deepened by 67pc to £1.97m (€2.2m) versus the first half of 2018, despite a 34pc rise in sales to £4.37m (€4.9m),

Diaceutics said IPO costs exceeded £1.4m but the flotation transformed its finances and meant it could invest heavily in expansion.

The company paid off all debts over the past year, including £2.1m to Silicon Valley Bank, leaving net cash of £14m (€15.7m).

Mr White said Diaceutics would invest £5m in data analytics skills over the coming two years; £5m in Asia, where a Singapore hub will oversee expansion in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan; and £4m in developing a new software-as-a-service platform due for a late 2020 rollout.

Diaceutics works with 35 pharma companies, including Novartis and AstraZeneca, in 18 countries to get therapies adopted more quickly and widely by harnessing data from 2,500 testing labs.

"Someone else has developed the test; someone else has developed the therapy," Mr Keeling said. "We're there to make the ecosystem work, so that all patients are tested faster and more appropriately.

"With lung cancer, for example, you might have to test patients 10 times over five years to get them on to the smartest drug. We try to shorten that to six to 12 months."

Irish Independent

Also in Business