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A Day in The Life: Krishna Kannan, Director of Research and Development

July 7, 2021  |  Codex DNA

In his scientific career at Codex DNA, Krishna Kannan has led the development of new technologies for our BioXp™ system, allowing us to expand our services and meet customers’ demands. Krishna was also instrumental in bringing the BioXp small-scale mRNA synthesis kits to market, which we launched a couple of months ago. Additionally, Krishna has helped expand genome engineering capabilities, including launching our custom genome synthesis services and off-the-shelf SARS-CoV-2 genomes.

We caught up with Krishna about what the day-to-day of his job is like and why it’s a good fit for him.

Tell us about the synthetic biology business and how Codex DNA falls into this. What whitespace did you see in the market that led you to find Codex DNA? What need did you want to fill?
We’re on the cutting edge of technology, and there’s not a lot of automation solutions in synthetic biology — especially with large molecular DNA — such as the new capability to clone gene fragments up to 7kb in length, build full-length genomes and the biologically active mRNA synthesis automation solution we recently launched.

When do you do your most important work and why?
I get most of my work done before 8 am and after 6 pm, because this is a time with fewer distractions and meetings, allowing me to be the most productive.

What time do you get up? What does your morning, pre-work routine look like?
5:30 am – 6 am. The first thing I do is check and respond to emails, then update my to-do list on One Note, which is the only way I can stay on top of so many tasks at once.

What’s the first thing you do when you get to your desk?
The first thing I do is get my coffee, then fill my water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the day.

What are you working on this week?
Since our launch of mRNA, I’ve been working closely with our customers to deeply understand their use cases and ensure we are delivering both the endpoint product and exceptional customer service we intend to. I’m also building a few custom genomes, and on-boarding a new team member, so he can get quickly up to speed on all the exciting projects we’re working on.

What’s been the most rewarding part of working at Codex DNA?
We’re doing such great science, and I’m looking forward to doing even more innovative things at Codex DNA. When things work, it’s extremely rewarding. Being a part of developing a product from the start, then seeing it go to market is truly an amazing thing. In some instances, I didn’t think we could pull it off in such a short amount of time, but we did, which is very gratifying. I’m also proud of how we’ve monetized our genome-building capabilities, which we did not expand until last year. Another thing I’d say has been quite rewarding are the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with. I’ve worked with some of the people here for about seven years or more, and it’s great to be able to collaborate with them — and I enjoy it so much, it makes me feel like I’m not even going to work every day.

What advice do you have for balancing the minutiae of day-to-day tasks with big-picture planning?
Two things. The first is that you’re in constant communication with the senior leadership team, which is important because I constantly get updates on what the priorities are which is extremely helpful. The second is to communicate very well with your manager to ensure that your priorities are aligned with the company’s priorities.

What is a typical day like in your role?
I spend my mornings planning, and usually have meetings, meetings, and more meetings. As you move up in a company and you’re managing more and more projects, meetings can take up the workday as there are many conversations around planning and executing for these projects. I do make time to do some benchwork because it’s what I love to do. I check in with my team regularly, and I pride myself on having an open-door policy so they know they can come to me with any questions they have at any time. I do a lot of daily reading; I get alerts from about 10 different sources a day.

What advice would you give to somebody considering this role as a career?
Learn how to multitask, be organized, plan very well — to the extent that there are minimal failures. Make sure there are no failures in communication, whether it’s with your team peers, or up and down the chain. Be mindful of people, and by that, I mean be empathetic. People management is extremely important to bring the best out of people in your team.

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