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Shiny Gatherings #8: Teal’s Role in Pharma Innovation with Paweł Rucki

In the fast-paced world of pharmaceutical software development, open-source tools play a pivotal role. Among these, Teal stands out as a groundbreaking framework, developed under the aegis of Roche, for creating interactive data applications.

In this article, we delve into a comprehensive conversation with Paweł Rucki, exploring the intricacies of Teal, its evolution, and the challenges and triumphs of open-sourcing in the pharma sector.

Table of Contents

Full Session

The Essence of Teal

Teal, primarily designed for statistical data analysts, simplifies the process of creating shiny-based applications. It serves as a foundation, allowing users, especially early entry-level R programmers, to develop and deploy applications with minimal coding. The framework is complemented by an array of tools, guides, documentation, and examples, making it accessible and user-friendly.

Unique Features

What sets Teal apart is its dual focus on reproducibility and ease of use. It caters to statistical programmers transitioning from other platforms like SAS and lowers the entry barrier significantly. Teal’s interactive code generation and evaluation capabilities enable users to understand and recreate the code behind visualizations, fostering a deeper understanding of data manipulation and analysis.

Evolution and Open-Sourcing

Teal’s journey began with its first Git commit in 2017 with just three developers. After a period of inactivity, the project gained momentum in 2019, culminating in its open-source release in 2021. This transition marked a significant milestone, leading to widespread recognition and adoption within Roche, including its use in an FDA submission. By 2023, Teal had garnered substantial buzz, with numerous workshops and presentations showcasing its capabilities.

Curious about how open-source tools  such as Teal, R Shiny and Rhino are reshaping FDA clincal trial submissions? Dive into our insights in this comprehensive review.

Challenges and Lessons

The development of Teal has not been without its challenges. Key lessons include the importance of design, the necessity of automating routine tasks, and the value of continuous feedback and testing. These insights have shaped Teal’s development, ensuring it remains both robust and adaptable.

User Engagement and Applications

Teal’s versatility is evidenced by its diverse user base. From facilitating data exploration to supporting regulatory outputs, its applications are vast. Notable uses include interactive data analysis, patient profile modules, and custom module development, highlighting Teal’s adaptability to various needs.

Balancing User-Friendliness and Advanced Features

Maintaining a balance between simplicity for beginners and advanced capabilities for experienced users is crucial. Teal achieves this by segregating its functionalities into different layers. This layered architecture is structured to prioritize complexity and power at the base, catering to users requiring advanced capabilities. Above this is a more straightforward convenience layer, geared towards non-expert users, offering simplicity and functionality that caters to user skills. The topmost layer is designed for typical standard users, providing essential functions in an accessible way.

Teal Developers

This layered architecture creates two broad roles in using teal:

  • Teal App Developer: Responsible for creating Teal apps using available modules. These modules are standardized and versatile, fitting various use cases. The developer integrates them into the app’s interface for user-friendliness.
  • Teal Module Developer: Focuses on building Teal modules that are adaptable and reusable, or customized for specific project needs. These modules form the basis of Teal apps.

This structure ensures Teal is accessible for beginners while offering advanced features for experienced users.

Community Contribution and Support

Community involvement is a cornerstone of Teal’s development. Feature requests and feedback are encouraged through platforms like GitHub, and Slack. This collaborative approach ensures that Teal evolves in response to real-world needs and experiences.

Open-Source Challenges in Pharma

“Industry and Pharma companies are willing to compete on the molecules, not on the tools.”

Transitioning to open-source in the pharmaceutical industry presents unique challenges. Navigating these requires careful planning and a clear vision for the future. Roche’s experience with Teal offers valuable insights into this process.

Transitioning to open-source in the pharmaceutical industry presents unique challenges. Navigating these requires careful planning and a clear vision for the future. Roche’s experience with Teal offers valuable insights into this process.

Impact on Roche and Skill Development

Implementing Teal has profoundly impacted Roche and became part of their effort to transition to R. It has fostered skill development, particularly in R programming and software development practices. While the benefits are often qualitative, the positive feedback and application of learned skills are tangible indicators of its success.

Future Directions and Features

Looking ahead, Teal’s roadmap includes a CRAN release and continuous refinement of its features. The focus is on simplifying the project, enhancing the UI/UX, and responding to user feedback. These initiatives underscore a commitment to making Teal an even more powerful and user-friendly tool in the years to come.


Teal exemplifies the innovative spirit within the pharmaceutical software industry. Its journey from an internal project to a widely recognized open-source tool highlights the potential of collaborative development in advancing healthcare technology.

As Teal continues to evolve, it promises to revolutionize the way statistical data analysis is conducted, making it an indispensable tool for both novices and experts in the field.

Get ready for the next Shiny Gathering event – #9: R Shiny Trivia Night! Whether you’re flying solo or joining forces with friends and colleagues, this is your chance to shine in R Shiny trivia. Gear up for an evening of knowledge, competition, and the opportunity to win exciting prizes. Don’t miss out on this engaging event – sign up now and join the fun.

This session was co-hosted by Vedha Viyash and André Veríssimo.