At bone marrow transplant charity Anthony Nolan, Chief Information Officer Danny Attias has shifted a creaking 20-year-old VB-coded systems infrastructure and unstable Windows 7-based desktop environment into a cloud-hosted future. In the process, his team also developed new DNA sample tracking systems that reinforce the organisation's prime function of saving lives by matching donors to desperately ill individuals.
Domestically, under Attias an adaptive agile framework has been established to re-architect the legacy tech stacks and explore digital opportunities while comprehensively overhauling the digital workspace with a refresh of every single network, storage, server and desktop component.
Internationally, the IT function embarked on a complete rebuild of the global search and match platform – Anthony Nolan is only one of over 100 donor-matching registers across the globe, although as the first register ever set up it invests resource in advising and collaborating with other registries. Attias helped persuad a non-technical, multilingual business team on the need for an agile development approach that successfully delivered the project, which had been struggling to get off the ground for years, to search the donor database to find genetic matches (or partial matches) for patients. A second international project Attias drove was a data exchange platform with the US register, which has resulted in a significant rise in the number of UK people donating stem cells for US patients.
The big win has been the migration of the foundational systems running on legacy Sun Spark machines and Oracle databases to an Azure-hosted service-orientated architecture written in .Net. The system already provides a more robust audit trail of donor-matching search history and can generate a single PDF of all the search result permutations and comments required, so they no longer have to be printed out, manually annotated and reports scanned in.
This framework has also allowed the charity to save significant funds by changing the way it collects DNA samples from prospective donors. Buccal swabs (cheek cells) can now be used instead of spit kits (saliva), with the cloud-hosted system rapidly developed by a team rather than a single person on a legacy VB.Net platform.
Attias's intention going forward is to use cloud-based services, such as big query, and micro-services to allow multiple searches to take place in parallel and scale rather than having to rely on a fixed compute resource.