Rimsys has had quite a year already! In early December, we closed on $16 million in Series A financing and since then we have been carefully growing the company to better serve our customers and the regulatory affairs community. We have almost doubled our employee count and redesigned the Rimsys system to deliver deeper functionality that is even easier to use. We had our first in-person employee meeting here in Pittsburgh at the end of April where we introduced our new mission statement, and we are all excited to be doing our part to improve global health!
All of these changes made us think back to the founding of Rimsys and how far we have come. So - I sat down with Rimsys Founder and CEO, James Gianoutsos, to talk about the genesis of the company and how he knew that a new type of system designed for medtech regulatory affairs professionals was needed, and needed to be built from the ground up.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced as a regulatory professional that led you to form Rimsys?
James: The biggest challenge I saw while working at Philips for many years was completely understanding the complexity and the nuances around everything regulatory from a product standpoint. This really came to light whenever we acquired products. Just seeing firsthand how inefficient and out of compliance these manufacturers really were, and how hard it was from an administrative standpoint just to get into compliance and then to stay compliant, was striking.
I was working with a smaller medical device company which had acquired products from Philips. Philips provided the company with a list (a color-coded Excel spreadsheet) of all of their products that the company had acquired along with the registration status of those products globally. After digging into the spreadsheet for several months, we found that about 50% of it was wrong, incomplete, or just completely missing. The company was trying to keep track of registration information, but the available tools were making it nearly impossible. I realized that this was the challenge, and that there really wasn’t a solution on the market that could solve that problem in an easy manner and in a medtech regulatory-focused way.
Q: There were solutions on the market that were geared more towards the pharmaceutical industry, correct?
James: Yes. So I did what every other regulatory professional did, which was to Google “regulatory software,” and I saw that there just really wasn’t anything on the market that fit our needs. The solutions on the market really were pharma-specific, even those that said they worked with medical devices. The workflows and regulatory requirements for medtech are very specific for each market, depending on the product type and risk class and so many other factors. To use a pharma system that was already on the market just wasn’t even an option because it was like comparing apples to oranges. It is completely different from the regulatory and workflow side of things.
Q: There are existing tools used by the regulatory community, such as quality management and document management systems. Did you envision the new RIM system integrating with existing tools, replacing them, or a little of both?
James: I never set out to replace those types of systems, no. In fact, I knew that existing system architecture and infrastructure couldn’t handle the specific medtech regulatory workflows but needed to connect to those systems. There have always been PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) systems that contain a company’s product master data, but those systems were never meant to be workflow-driven based on regulatory requirements. At the same time, they are critical for organizing and maintaining product-specific metadata. Then there are ERP systems, which are really about making sure companies have sales flags (i.e. regulatory blocks) in place, appropriate shipping codes, or selling status linked to product registration status. Regulatory professionals are concerned about answering two questions for ERP users; one, “does the product have a valid and current registration within the country or market,” and two, “if it is registered, are we selling and shipping into that market.” Lastly, quality/document management systems house critical documentation and records needed for registrations. The problem with these systems is that there are no regulatory workflows and no way to compile technical documentation, leaving the documents and records siloed from the regulatory filings.
To do the things that a regulatory affairs professional, in a critical regulatory department, does for their company, the system really had to be built from the ground up with all of these systems in mind. It had to be product-centric. It had to integrate with all these other sources of information, because there really wasn’t a common connection point between your products, your documentation, and the records that you needed to compile and how that relates to getting products on the market. We had no way to communicate to our other systems that a product is actually available for sale in that market or that it confidently can, or more importantly cannot, ship to that market.
Q: What was the most difficult piece of functionality to implement in Rimsys?
James: Well, at the time it kind of all seemed difficult! No, really the most difficult part was thinking thoughtfully and strategically about how data was going to be mapped and used in conjunction with other data elements, in order to make the system most helpful from a user perspective. We wanted to single-source information to enhance and streamline regulatory workflows, but then also make sure that it was as user friendly as possible. There are a lot of stakeholders that need information or have input into regulatory workflows. Quality assurance, marketing operations, R&D, engineering, sales - all of those specific stakeholders need to view information in a way that is understandable to them.
We worked hard to bring all that information, streamline complex regulatory workflows, and all of those internal and external data sources together in an understandable and user-friendly way.
Q: How important has the technology itself been in the creation of Rimsys?
James: Technology has been a huge advantage for us from day one. Our team had quality and regulatory backgrounds, so we knew what companies would expect from us. We knew we had to be 21 CFR Part 11 compliant. We knew we had to be ISO 27001 certified. We knew we had to have SOC2 Type 2 reports. We knew we had to integrate with a company’s existing IT infrastructure. We really had to build this thing from the ground up on a GxP compliant platform that we could build upon and expand, without having to go back and reinvent the wheel every time we added new functionality.
It’s continued to pay dividends for us because it was something that we thought about from the beginning and that gave us a lot of flexibility. We already had the system and infrastructure in place that we could then expand upon a lot more quickly than we would have been able to otherwise. It’s like the difference between building a house today and trying to remodel a house that was built in the year 1900. If you break down a wall in the older house, there might be so many hidden issues behind that wall - load bearing issues, knob and tube wiring, asbestos, etc. With new modern infrastructure, it is just night and day in terms of adapting quickly with changing regulations and a fast-paced market.
Q: Was there any specific technology you can talk about that became important to the development of Rimsys?
James: Our choice of technology was driven by our desire to build a system that was user friendly and built on a modern infrastructure that felt familiar to our users. So, we took a lot of the Google framework to build an application that didn’t look like enterprise software, but looked and felt more like a consumer product that is inviting, not overwhelming.
The other thing is that we built the system from day one to integrate because we knew we had to connect with a lot of different sources of information. We strategically built the system with API’s in mind.
Q: What is Rimsys doing differently than other software companies in the regulatory space?
James: We are creating a holistic solution, which is different from what is out there now. We know that registration management is just one key aspect of what regulatory affairs teams need. In order to create a proper regulatory system, we had to take into account all of the data and dependencies and build a system specifically for medtech regulatory teams and other key consumers of regulatory data. There has to be a single source of truth for this data, because otherwise it becomes a nightmare at the end of the day. Existing software solutions were siloed and purpose-built for other industry needs, such as eQMS, PLM and ERP. None of those systems can do what a holistic RIM platform can do. Because of the complex workflows, the regulatory needs are far too broad and interdependent, that data infrastructure is completely different, data sources are too numerous, and the systems offer limited support to bring everyone and everything together into a cohesive, streamlined, compliant and medtech-specific solution.
Another key component of what we are doing is to institutionalize regulatory knowledge and resources into Rimsys—this is at the heart of who we are and what we do. Having the only purpose-built, holistic RIM platform built by and for regulatory professionals specific for the medtech industry really couldn’t be done without internalizing that experience within our own team.
Q: What are you most proud of when it comes to Rimsys?
James: I think there are two things that immediately come to mind. Having our Rimsys 5 platform launch is really exciting. This is the fifth iteration of our platform, and we did it by listening to our customers and iterating over and over again to get it right. We had to go back to the drawing board a couple of times, not because what we had written wasn’t working, but because our customers that were using the system every day gave us better ways to do things. Rimsys 5 is a really proud moment because this is the platform that we are taking into the future, that will let us get to the next level where we are truly empowering regulatory professionals to make critical decisions and do the job that they are meant to do.
The ability for us to listen to our customers, take that feedback and move fast is the second thing I’d mention here. We know that this has to be a validated system, but we are able to make changes and add features in a way that is thoughtful and gets our customers what they need right away. Regulatory professionals are very particular. I know since I am one, and making sure they are comfortable using Rimsys from day 1 is critically important. Being a customer-centric company really makes our experience as a team extremely rewarding.
Q: Where is Rimsys going next? What are you most excited about?
I think I am most excited about Rimsys being an advocate for the medtech regulatory community and helping them wherever we can. Regulatory has a seat at the table now and it is a great feeling to see that we’re able to help these companies to streamline their workflows, accelerate time to delivery for life-saving products and maintain that compliance to keep those products on the market. Regulatory affairs is a mission critical department that the medtech industry cannot underestimate. It’s empowering because while we are helping our customers, they are helping us and every single one of our other customers through the journey of regulatory uncertainty that everyone is going through right now. It feels like a real partnership between us, our customers, and the industry as a whole and I am excited to see where that will take us.
I am also really excited about where we are going with regulatory intelligence. We are just scratching the surface of this now, but you will see regulatory intelligence data built into Rimsys and providing RA professionals with tools that can really provide a competitive advantage for their company. The release of Rimsys 5 platform (“Phase 1”) provides us that platform that will take us into “Phase 2” of Rimsys, with embedded intelligence that will further empower regulatory professionals to make decisive, correct and confident decisions for their products and their company.