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In our DNA: Krishna Kannan, Staff Scientist

January 6, 2021

Today, in our ongoing employee profile series, we catch up with a member of our R&D team.

Team member: Krishna Kannan, Staff Scientist

Came aboard: November 2019

What do you do at Codex DNA?
As part of the R&D team, I am involved in developing new technologies for our BioXp™ system and putting our existing technologies to the best use possible. I’m the team lead for genome engineering, which involves using our tools for applications like synthesizing the SARS-CoV-2 genome, which we did earlier this year. We’ve since launched SARS-CoV-2 services for vaccine development researchers. We also work to build genomic constructs for the animal health and agricultural biotech spaces.

How did you get into that kind of work?
During grad school, I studied ribosomes and the interaction of antibiotics with the ribosome. At the end of that time, I started thinking about the synthetic biology space. I ended up working at Synthetic Genomics under Dan Gibson. It was a great place to start a career in synthetic biology.

What brought you to Codex DNA?
That’s easy: a combination of cutting-edge science and the people. I’ve worked with many of these people since 2013, back before Codex DNA was spun out of Synthetic Genomics. After about a year at another company, the idea of getting to collaborate with this team again and to develop cool technology was what brought me back.

What’s the company vibe?
I really love that our HR department is called “People and Culture.” It fits the bill because that’s what they’re trying to do — establish a cohesive culture and drive everyone towards a common goal. We’re all finding a balance between being focused and having fun.

What’s something fun about working at Codex DNA?
It’s a pure joy to interact with people here. I enjoy the camaraderie. It doesn’t feel like coming to work.

How do you describe synthetic biology to non-scientists?
I try to give them examples; something that’s tangible is usually easier to understand than something that’s abstract. Lately, I tell people that the COVID-19 vaccines wouldn’t have been possible without synthetic biology.

What’s one thing you wish more people understood about DNA?
DNA is a part of all of us, and it’s nothing to be afraid of. We are trying to make this world a better place with genome editing and genome engineering, by coming up with better therapies and vaccines, or crops that are resistant to flood and drought and provide more nutritious food.

What was the first thing you ever wanted to be when you grew up?
A doctor. I grew up in India, where you’re expected to be either a doctor or an engineer. I’m the first scientist in my family.

How do you see synthetic biology changing the world?
I think it has the potential to change everything. The way we think about food, with cell culture-based meats that save so much in terms of rearing animals that produce greenhouse gases. From combating climate change, to agricultural biotech, to improving animal and human health with therapies and vaccines, the applications are endless for synthetic biology. That’s what makes this field amazing. If we want a sustainable planet for future generations, synthetic biology is going to have to be part of the answer.

Are you interested in working at Codex DNA? See our open positions.

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