We’re continuing our blog series, looking at the DNA of Codex DNA — our incredible employees and their stories.
Team member: Katie Lyons, Senior Scientist
Came aboard: 2008
What do you do at Codex DNA?
I develop and adapt biological workflows onto the BioXp™ system. I’m basically translating biology onto automation.
How did you get into that kind of work?
It’s been an evolution. My dad is an engineer, and he always wanted me to go into that field, but I really loved molecular biology. After I joined Dan Gibson’s group at Synthetic Genomics, this opportunity to build a robot came along. I took the workflow we used on the bench and worked with a team of engineers to completely automate it. I found that I really enjoy being at the intersection of engineering and biology.
What brought you to Codex DNA?
I joined when we were part of Synthetic Genomics, and there was an emphasis on making a biofuel. I’m addicted to helping the environment, so that really spoke to me. We’ve since evolved and become our own entity. It was a lot of fun — and also extremely challenging — to be involved from the ground up.
What’s the company vibe?
The culture here is different than anywhere or any other time that we’ve existed as a company. We are very driven and focused individuals, and we’re also ultra-cooperative. It’s very honest. These people are gold and I can’t get enough of them.
How do you describe synthetic biology to non-scientists?
I give examples, such as how insulin once had to be collected from the pancreas of a slaughtered pig, but now we can make it in cell culture.
What one thing do you wish more people knew about DNA?
DNA is logic-based and math-like. It’s very understandable.
What’s something fun about working at Codex DNA?
One of my colleagues put the time that the International Space Station is visible on our calendars so we can go outside and watch it go across the sky.
What was the first thing you ever wanted to be when you grew up?
I unearthed a picture I had drawn in third grade of me wearing a lab coat with things bubbling around me, so I was going toward being a scientist even really early in life.
How do you see synthetic biology changing the world?
It has already grown by leaps and bounds, even though it’s still fairly specialized work. I hope that our tools will make the benefits of synthetic biology more attainable to labs. A great example of that is how one of our scientists built the first fully synthetic genome of the virus responsible for COVID-19. Then, we made it available, so the rest of the field could use it in whatever way they need to contribute to solving this crisis. I also love that we can use it to take the pressure off our natural resources. That’s how I see this type of thing being able to change the world.