We’re continuing our blog series, looking at the DNA of Codex DNA — our incredible employees and their stories.
Team member: Ken Williams, Bioinformatics Scientist Lead
Came aboard: February 2020
What do you do at Codex DNA?
I develop the algorithms for the complexity checker, codon optimization, sequence synthesis, the SOLA (enzymatic DNA synthesis) project, DNA data storage, biosecurity, and NGS analysis. In addition to that, I also help troubleshoot customer sequences and I help with the design for myBioXperience, our new online portal we recently launched.
How did you get into that kind of work?
When I was a teenager, both of my parents got very sick. My dad caught a cold that I gave him which led to him developing Guillain-Barre syndrome, so all his antibodies started attacking his neurons. At the same time, my mom was also diagnosed with myotonic muscular dystrophy. I then lost about half of my family on my mom’s side to myotonic muscular dystrophy, which is what led to me being interested in molecular biology and genetics. As far as bioinformatics, I accidentally fell into it since it was the only biology program not impacted at UCSD. The great thing is I ended up liking it much more than being on the bench, which worked out quite well.
How would you describe the company culture?
We’re currently in a transition right now going from a startup to a small company. Ultimately, it’s a fun place to work, we have a huge diversity of work that we’re doing. It’s great that everyone is approachable and easy to talk to. We also have spontaneous events that dictate the culture of the company. I also like the people here who come from diverse backgrounds and bring different perspectives and expertise.
How would you describe synthetic biology to non-scientists?
Synthetic biology is essentially the catalyst to the future because we’re greatly able to expedite research for drug discovery. We will be able to cure diseases. We can do things like engineer algae and solve the climate crisis. We can even store data on DNA using synthetic biology.
What’s something fun about working at Codex DNA?
There are so many projects that we’re working on. I enjoy interacting with so many people and expressing so many ideas to the various team members. I also like that’s a smaller company because everyone can make an impact.
What was the first thing you ever wanted to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a civil engineer because I’m interested in that and there are so many moving parts and ways to optimize the way cities are built. I also wanted to be a front man for a thrash metal band.
How do you see synthetic biology changing the world?
Helping with drug discovery, curing diseases, alleviating the climate crisis, and really the possibilities are limitless.