Rapid Science is a non-profit organization that strives to accelerate scientific discovery by offering open and collaborative networking tools. The company is betting that custom tools, expert facilitation and realigned incentives will result in authentic collaboration and more reliable and valuable outcomes. To this end, the company created an online Collaboration Platform where the act of publishing is incidental to the search for faster, better cures.

In the fall of 2016, Rapid Science asked Six Feet Up for help with the development of the second iteration of their Rapid Science Collaboration Platform: Sarcoma Central.


Areas of Expertise


  • Life Sciences
  • Non-Profits


When Rapid Science came to Six Feet Up, they were running two separate Django-based web applications (“Rapid Science Collaboration Platform” and “Cases Central”) to power their online efforts.

Since we were brought in on an existing system, we had to first get acquainted with the legacy code and existing specs. As is usual in first software development iterations, accurate documentation was lacking in both areas. The list of desired improvements was also very long, unorganized and lacking details.

Implementation Details

After an initial Blueprint Exploratory phase, the following priorities emerged:

  1. Bring the two Django apps together into one integrated system, with unified authentication and search mechanisms
  2. Review, clean up, update, test and optimize the code
  3. Clarify, document, prioritize and implement the desired enhancements

As part of the merge, the apps had to be upgraded to the latest version of Django and Solr had to be reconfigured to be the default search function.

A Living SpecBook was put together to document and organize the designed improvements. All the features were documented in tickets that were organized by component, milestones and priorities. Tasks were associated with testable business requirements. Diagrams were developed to explain and illustrate complex permission workflows. Smoketests were developed for quality assurance.

We moved forward in an Agile way, working on top priorities first, with ongoing back and forth communications with Rapid Science and their designer.

The site is served from one of Six Feet Up's private cloud VMs.


The first pilot community, Sarcoma Central,  provides clinical researchers and other healthcare professionals with an online venue where to discuss outcomes of clinical trials and insights from their own practices. Online members use the platform to better understand the biology and efficacy of experimental and approved therapies.

Participants can:

  • Share discussions, documents, spreadsheets, slide decks, videos, images, links, references
  • Filter activity feed by topic, content type, and personal postings
  • Exchange insights and questions securely with select individuals and groups
  • Join and form closed and open groups based on specialty topics, labs, trials, subcommittees, meetings etc.
  • Receive email updates when content is shared with them or their groups
  • View which members and groups have permission to view/discuss content based on the bylines 
  • Update patient data as case evolves
  • Submit anonymized patient data in templates or free text to Cases Central database
  • Update patient data as case evolves

Sarcoma Central has received strong interest from large scientific communities, international pharmaceutical groups, as well as government entities. This has been a highly gratifying project for the Sixies to work on due to the project's potential impact on the global healthcare system as well as human lives.

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