Ajamete “Aj” Kaykas
VP of High-throughput Biology
Ajamete “Aj” Kaykas
As Vice President of High-throughput Biology, Aj is responsible for producing high-quality data sets to use in for machine learning-based target and drug discovery. He leads insitro’s wet lab activities which consists of functional genomics, disease modeling, phenotyping, automation, and process engineering.
Ajamete has spent over 28 years in both industry and academia, working in the areas of proteomics, genomics, and stem cell biology. Before joining insitro, Aj led the early target discovery team at Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in the Neuroscience unit. His team efforts have led to the discovery of multiple new disease targets and the development of better predictive preclinical models. He conducted his postdoc with Dr. Randy Moon at the University of Washington/Howard Hughes Medical Institute on Wnt-signaling. While in Randy’s lab, he conducted one of the first ever genome-wide RNAi screens and studied the role of Wnt-signaling in human disease and stem cell biology. He did his graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Dr. Bill Sugden’s lab where he studied virology, immunology, and oncology.
In his free time, Aj enjoys traveling, kayaking, sailing, biking, making whiskey and most of all his family.
DRUG-seq: A Miniaturized High-Throughput Transcriptome Profiling Platform for Drug Discovery. Ye C, Ho DJ, Neri M, Yang C, Kulkarni T, Randhawa R, Henault M, Mostacci N, Farmer P, Renner S, Ihry R, Mansur L, Gubser Keller C, McAllister G, Hild M, Jenkins J, and Kaykas A. In Press, Sept; 2018 Nat. Comm.https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-06500-x
p53 inhibits CRISPR-Cas9 engineering in human pluripotent stem cells. Ihry RJ, Worringer KA, Salick MR, Frias E, Ho D, Theriault K, Kommineni S, Chen J, Sondey M, Ye C, Randhawa R, Kulkarni T, Yang Z, McAllister G, Russ C, Reece-Hoyes J, Forrester W, Hoffman GR, Dolmetsch R, Kaykas A. Nat Med. 2018 Jul;24(7):939-946.https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-018-0050-6
A Single-Cell Roadmap of Lineage Bifurcation in Human ESC Models of Embryonic Brain Development. Yao Z, Mich JK, Ku S, Menon V, Krostag AR, Martinez RA, Furchtgott L, Mulholland H, Bort S, Fuqua MA, Gregor BW, Hodge RD, Jayabalu A, May RC, Melton S, Nelson AM, Ngo NK, Shapovalova NV, Shehata SI, Smith MW, Tait LJ, Thompson CL, Thomsen ER, Ye C, Glass IA, Kaykas A, Yao S, Phillips JW, Grimley JS, Levi BP, Wang Y, Ramanathan S. Cell Stem Cell. 2017 Jan 5;20(1)https://www.cell.com/cell-stem-cell/fulltext/S1934-5909(16)30340-X?code=cell-site
Genetic Ablation of AXL Does Not Protect Human Neural Progenitor Cells and Cerebral Organoids from Zika Virus Infection. Wells MF, Salick MR, Wiskow O, Ho DJ, Worringer KA, Ihry RJ, Kommineni S, Bilican B, Klim JR, Hill EJ, Kane LT, Ye C, Kaykas A*, Eggan K.* Cell Stem Cell. 2016 Dec 1;19(6):703-708. *Co-corresponding authorhttps://www.cell.com/cell-stem-cell/fulltext/S1934-5909(16)30407-6
Functional genomic analysis of the Wnt-wingless signaling pathway. DasGupta R*, Kaykas A*, Moon RT, Perrimon N. Science. 2005 May 6;308(5723):826-33. *Co-first authorshttps://science.sciencemag.org/content/308/5723/826
Albert utilizes different automation technologies to ensure quality data generation from many of insitro’s scientific processes. This includes integrating specific assays onto automation, onboarding tools for efficient execution, and maintaining an environment for seamless research operations.
After graduating with his B.S. in Biochemistry and Philosophy from Wisconsin-Madison he started at Abbott Laboratories as an Associate Scientist focusing on instrument and assay validation for their diagnostics platform. After working in a big company environment, he joined Transcriptic, where he helped w/ assay integration and automation.
In his free time, Albert enjoys watching the NBA and trying out different banana bread recipes.
Alicia is a research associate focusing on developing and optimizing workflows to use on insitro’s automated systems.
Alicia was previously responsible for screening thousands of modified strains per week in a highly automated environment. She also spent time on a process quality management team where she worked with automation engineers, lab users, and software developers to build and test a paperless equipment management platform. Prior to her experience in process quality management, she worked with a small team creating one of the world’s largest induced pluripotent stem cell banks. The project was funded by a CIRM grant that resulted from the passing of proposition 71. Her focus was automating workflows on an integrated system and designing experiments focused on optimizing high throughput systems.
In her free time Alicia enjoys hiking, camping, reading, & museums.
Alicia is Senior Research Associate in High-Throughput Biology and she is working on differentiating iPSCs into appropriate cell types for disease modeling to produce data sets for insitro’s machine learning platform.
Prior to joining insitro, Alicia was working on cell therapies for neurodegenerative diseases at Neurona Therapeutics. Before then she was at the Gladstone Institutes working on cellular models of neurodegenerative diseases. Alicia has a bioengineering background and obtained her B.S. and M. Eng. in Bioengineering from UCSD.
In her spare time, Alicia enjoys reading, hiking and traveling.
Anne is an automation engineer with experience developing methods and the tools needed to scale them. As a member of the Process Engineering team at Insitro, Anne works to enable the production of high quality biological data for downstream machine learning analysis and data science. She is frequently engaged in system development, process development, and developing the tools and methods that ensure the automated systems are producing the highest quality data.
Anne worked early in her career in GMP assay development for potency testing of antibody therapies, then scaled the assay development and testing through the use of automation. She transitioned into laboratory automation engineering full time when she became the lead system specialist in the nucleic acid sample management group in gRED at Genentech. There she managed many different integrated automated systems to transform, purify, store and deliver plasmids, proteins and other nucleic acid collections to the research organization. After that she transitioned to Synthego to lead their automation group to scale CRISPR oligo manufacturing and within 1 year built the integrated cell handling platforms to support nation scale cell line engineering services.
Anne holds a B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Davis.
Outside of work Anne enjoys long walks on the beach, sipping pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. She also enjoys cooking, baking, playing games and Dungeons and Dragons.
Bobby is a research associate that supports the development and integration of image-based assays to further insitro’s drug discovery.
Bobby got his B.S. in Biological Engineering at the University of Georgia (UGA) and did some hands on research focusing on stem cell therapies. He became a double Dawg when he got his M.S. in Engineering at UGA with a focus on Cell Manufacturing Research using high content imaging in the Mortensen lab.
In his free time Bobby likes to spend time with his partner and two crazy kitties, hike, dance, gardening and practice jiu jitsu.
As principal scientist / manager, Chu leads insitro’s functional genomics and phenotyping efforts.
Chu has over a decade of molecular phenotyping and profiling experiences in academia and industry. Before Insitro, Chu was the genomics tech lead for the Immune Profiler platform developed at Verily Life Sciences (an Alphabet company in healthcare). Verily and Gilead are employing this platform to understand inflammatory autoimmune diseases. During his postdoc, Chu set up a single cell RNAseq platform at Genome Institute of Singapore to map the human immune atlas. During his graduate training with Dr. Howard Chang at Stanford University, Chu invented an RNA-interactome analysis method, “ChIRP,” to study the mechanism of X-chromosome inactivation by the famous long noncoding RNA “Xist”, among many other projects, via genomics, imaging and protein mass spec assays.
In his spare time, Chu tests sneakers for Puma, and reads books to his two young kids.
Claire Jeong is a Scientist with various experiences and expertise in human cell-based complex in vitro models (i.e. 3D bioprinting, organs-on-chip, organoids) for drug discovery. At insitro, Claire is a Senior Scientist in the Disease Modeling Group and works on developing and implementing human relevant models and assays to generate more disease relevant data that enables machine-learning based drug discovery.
Prior to joining insitro, Claire was trained as a biomedical engineer and earned her B.S. from Johns Hopkins University and her M.S./Ph.D. from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, majoring in Biomedical Engineering with cartilage/bone tissue engineering and biomaterials focus. After her postdoctoral work at Duke University exploring stem cells and cell delivery for disc regeneration, she joined GSK for a collaborative project between GSK and Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine, and continued working as an investigator for the Complex In Vitro Models group part of the Platform Technology & Sciences division of GSK Pharma R&D.
She also did a secondment with the Accelerating Therapeutics for Opportunities in Medicine (ATOM) Consortium and served as co-lead on a safety integrated project team and as a complex in vitro models expert, to build integrated predictive safety, efficacy, and PK computational models for cancer drug discovery.
In her spare time, Claire enjoys playing the cello, yoga, hiking, reading, live music and performances and exploring new places and unique cuisines.
Cody Scandore is a process engineer with experience transitioning new technologies toward productive scientific research applications. As a member of the Process Engineering team at insitro, Cody works to enable the production of high quality biological data for downstream machine learning analysis and data science. He is frequently engaged in process transfer, process development, and developing the laboratory’s network infrastructure.
Cody began working in research and manufacturing roles supporting the production of high vacuum deposition tools for the semiconductor industry in 2012. Later, he joined the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, where he worked to scale biological assays using high-throughput robotic systems. Cody moved from GNF to the SF Bay Area to help early-stage companies industrialize exciting new techniques available to biologists, such as iPS cell culture & differentiation, genome engineering, and cerebral organoid production.
Cody holds a B.A. in Economics from Vassar College, a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, and is a CFA candidate.
Outside of work, Cody enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling.
As Scientific Specialist at Insitro, Craig will be working with the Disease Modeling group to help develop robust, scalable and highly reproducible in vitro models of human disease. Craig will also focus on integrating these models into high throughput, automated platforms to eliminate variability and provide large, trustworthy data sets to the Machine Learning team.
After graduating from the University of California Santa Barbara, Craig has supported various research and development efforts in Neuroscience, Stem Cell and Cancer Biology. Throughout his career, Craig has acquired an extensive research experience from institutions such as the Neuroscience Institute, UC San Diego, California Stem Cell Inc., and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Craig hopes to use his experience and ideas to help advance the exciting programs at Insitro to the next level of drug discovery.
Craig enjoys an occasional escape to the wilderness for fishing, camping, exploring and basically just having fun with family. Favorite author: Bertrand Russell.
Deirdre is a research associate supporting several different aspects of lab work including cloning, iPSC culture, automation, and pretty much anything else needed around the lab!
Deirdre graduated in May 2018 from Cornell University with a BSc. in Biology, concentrating in Genetics, Genomics, and Development. Deirdre is a veteran of lab work having worked in 6 different labs starting at age 15 – most recently as a member of Dr. Kristy Richard’s lab at Cornell University College of Veterinary medicine, and intern at Pfizer in the functional genomics group. She grew up in Nyack, New York and spent many summers in Castle Island, Ireland with her extended family.
In her free time Deirdre enjoys live music, podcasts, painting, and fashion design.
Eric utilizes microscopy to extract quantitative information from cells. His research is focused on developing in situ genomics technologies through a combination of bioengineering, optics, and image analysis. As a member of the functional genomics team, Eric is dedicated to delivering novel assays and datasets to further insitro’s drug discovery pipeline.
Eric earned his Ph.D. in biophysics from Caltech where he developed a new generation of microscopes capable of capturing transcriptomic information from human cells and tissue. Following graduation he transitioned to a postdoc in bioengineering at UCSF/Stanford where he developed synthetic biology tools using CRISPR screens.
In his free time Eric enjoys bicycles, hiking, and spending time with his family.
Single-cell in situ RNA profiling by sequential hybridizationhttps://www.nature.com/nmeth/journal/v11/n4/full/nmeth.2892.html
In situ transcription profiling of single cells reveals spatial organization of cells in the mouse hippocampushttps://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627316307024
Dynamics and Spatial Genomics of the Nascent Transcriptome by Intron seqFISHhttps://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867418306470
Head of Process Engineering
As the Head of Process Engineering, John is responsible for leading the development and deployment of lab automation for high-throughput, effective production of high-quality data sets to use in machine learning. John’s team also will focus on building out the tools and capabilities for implementing operational excellence across all of insitro’s laboratories.
Prior to joining insitro, John spent the last 20 years designing, building and managing automation solutions across biotech and pharmaceutical industries. He has significant expertise with early-stage startups, helping to develop, implement and support automation technologies as they scale. John has an M.Eng. in Systems Engineering from Penn State University.
He is an avid outdoor enthusiast who enjoys backpacking, road biking, landscape photography, and travel.
Joyce Yang is a scientist with extensive experience developing novel technologies at the intersection of CRISPR genome engineering, stem cells, and in situ sequencing. To enable machine-learning based drug discovery, her current work at insitro is focused on building CRISPR perturbation platforms in relevant cellular model systems to produce high-quality data from functional genomic screens and disease modeling.
Joyce earned her B.A. from UC Berkeley majoring in Molecular Cell Biology and minoring in Music. She then pursued her passion for science and earned her Ph.D. from Harvard in Biological & Biomedical Sciences. Her graduate work with Dr. George Church focused on developing a novel in situ RNA sequencing technology as well as CRISPR/Cas9 genome engineering strategies to improve efficiency in human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Next, she dived into the exciting world of biotech startups at Synthego, contributing to the growth and commercialization of the new Cell Engineering division as one of the foundational scientists.
Joyce loves to sing and experiment on the piano, traveling, backpacking, taking long walks, and trying all things chewy.
Kelly Haston is a stem cell biologist with broad experience in human stem cell-based models of development and disease. She is a Sr. Scientist in the disease modeling group helping guide the team as they build biological model systems that will interface with the genetic, data science and machine learning modules of insitro’s unique approach to discover novel human therapeutics.
Kelly was born in Ottawa and grew up in central British Columbia and Toronto, Canada. She did her undergraduate and masters work at the UC Berkeley studying the effects of pesticides on frog gonad development. She then began working in the stem cell field during her Ph.D. with Dr. Renee Rejio Pera at UC San Francisco and Stanford University. Kelly performed postdoctoral positions briefly with Dr. Lee Rubin at Harvard and then with Dr. Steven Finkbeiner at UCSF’s Gladstone Institutes where she focused on building stem cell based models of neurodegeneration. She transitioned to industry in 2017, taking a position with a small start up, Scaled Biolabs, as Lead Scientist where she used the company’s novel discovery platform to optimize the production of many different cell types from human stem cells.
Kelly uses her spare time to be outside as much as possible, mainly trail running or fastpacking. She also loves reading, traveling to new places and attending live music and performances.
Lauren is part of the Automation & Process Engineering team. She helps develop and implement lab processes, oversees the purchasing and inventory management of lab supplies, and manages shipping and receiving.
After obtaining her B.S. in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from UC Davis, Lauren decided to explore the operations side of science and worked at Calico Life Sciences, an Alphabet company, as a member of the lab operations team.
In her spare time, Lauren enjoys doing puzzles, playing volleyball, baking, and spending time with her border collie who doesn’t know what sleep is.
Lorn Kategaya is a cell biologist with small molecule drug discovery experience. At insitro, Lorn will develop relevant disease assays and utilize genetic/chemical screens to identify key biological players that modulate disease outcomes.
Lorn has a PhD in pharmacology from the University of Washington, a post-doc from UCSF and industry experience at Genentech and IDEAYA Biosciences.
Away from the bench, Lorn follows politics and enjoys live music, theatrical performances, and french fries.
Werner Syndrome Helicase is Required for the Survival of Cancer Cells with Microsatellite Instabilityhttps://www.cell.com/iscience/fulltext/S2589-0042(19)30040-9
USP7 small-molecule inhibitors interfere with ubiquitin bindinghttps://www.nature.com/articles/nature24006
VP of Immunology & Infectious Diseases
Matthew Albert is Vice President of Immunology & Infectious Diseases at insitro.
Prior to joining insitro, Matthew worked as Principal Scientist in the Department of Cancer Immunology at Genentech (2015 – 2019); and served as Professor (2003 – 2015), Founder and Director of the Center for Human Immunology (2007 – 2015) and Director of the Immunology Department at Institut Pasteur, Paris France (2010 – 2015).
Matthew is an immunologist and clinical pathologist, with a long-standing interest in immune regulation and tumor immunity. His research embraces the power of a “human-first” approach to scientific discovery, driven by a commitment to understand how to achieve effective response to cancer immunotherapy, autoimmunity and chronic infection while limiting adverse effects of treatment. As this requires a deep insight into health and disease pathogenesis, he has developed several areas of investigation over the last two decades, which has included a deep commitment to bladder diseases (incl. cancer and UTI); and liver diseases (incl. HCV, HBV, HCC and NASH). He has also been a leader in the Milieu Intérieur Consortium, a 30-team academic / industrial partnership that aims to define the genetic, microbiome and environmental determinants of variable immune responses in healthy persons.
Matthew trained at The Rockefeller University, Cornell University Medical College and did his residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital. He is the author of more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers and has made major contributions to the understanding of antigen cross-priming and the impact of post-translational modification of chemokines as determinants of effective tumor immunity. In his spare time, he and his family enjoy cooking together, traveling and exploring the world’s ecology under the sea (marvelling at Ostracod mating practices in the Carribean), in jungles (visits to the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre in Borneo), and in ecology parks (riding dolphins in Tunisia). The have traveled together to over 35 countries, with a strong belief that knowing and engaging with diverse communities and cultures help them be better contributors to the world.
Germline genetic polymorphisms influence tumor gene expression and immune cell infiltration. Lim YW, Chen-Harris H, Mayba O, Lianoglou S, Wuster A, Bhangale T, Khan Z, Mariathasan S, Daemen A, Reeder J, Haverty PM, Forrest WF, Brauer M, Mellman I, Albert ML. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Dec 11;115(50):E11701-E11710. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1804506115. Epub 2018 Nov 21
Natural variation in the parameters of innate immune cells is preferentially driven by genetic factors. Patin E, Hasan M, Bergstedt J, Rouilly V, Libri V, Urrutia A, Alanio C, Scepanovic P, Hammer C, Jönsson F, Beitz B, Quach H, Lim YW, Hunkapiller J, Zepeda M, Green C, Piasecka B, Leloup C, Rogge L, Huetz F, Peguillet I, Lantz O, Fontes M, Di Santo JP, Thomas S, Fellay J, Duffy D, Quintana-Murci L, Albert ML; Milieu Intérieur Consortium. Nat Immunol. 2018 Mar;19(3):302-314. doi: 10.1038/s41590-018-0049-7. Epub 2018 Feb 23
Genetic Adaptation and Neandertal Admixture Shaped the Immune System of Human Populations. Quach H, Rotival M, Pothlichet J, Loh YE, Dannemann M, Zidane N, Laval G, Patin E, Harmant C, Lopez M, Deschamps M, Naffakh N, Duffy D, Coen A, Leroux-Roels G, Clément F, Boland A, Deleuze JF, Kelso J, Albert ML, Quintana-Murci L. Cell. 2016 Oct 20;167(3):643-656.e17. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.09.024
As Disease Modeling Scientist, Max is focused on using pluripotent stem cells, CRISPR, and a range of differentiation and transcriptomics approaches to model human diseases in in vitro platforms. Max and his team will model devastating human diseases using the relevant cell types, and will produce high-throughput / high-quality imaging and transcriptomic datasets for insitro’s machine learning platform to mine for phenotypes.
Max is an engineer by training, gaining a B.S. in Engineering Mechanics and Astronautics and a Ph.D. from the Materials Science Program of the University of Wisconsin – Madison. By combining dry lab engineering with wet lab disease modeling, Max has frequently used the newest technologies to gain insights into the mechanisms by which various genetic diseases affect human health. Max spent his time in graduate school developing micropatterned differentiation techniques and computational analysis tools to improve stem-cell-based heart modeling methods. Prior to joining insitro, Max spent 4 years as a postdoc in the Novartis Neuroscience department, where he developed single cell characterization platforms to discover disease mechanisms of tuberous sclerosis, uncovered novel mechanisms of disease progression in certain dementias, and conducted genome-wide screens to elucidate potential Zika virus receptors.
Max’s free time is spent with his border collie, Coda, along with playing piano/guitar, and poorly-but-enthusiastically playing various sports.
Genetic ablation of AXL does not protect human neural progenitor cells and cerebral organoids from Zika virus infectionhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27912091
Micropattern width dependent sarcomere development in human ESC-derived cardiomyocyteshttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24582552
p53 inhibits CRISPR-Cas9 engineering in human pluripotent stem cellshttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29892062/
Mei is a Research Associate in High-Throughput Biology and her work primarily focuses on differentiate human pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) into desired cell types for in vitro human disease modeling and generate datasets for insitro’s machine learning platform.
Prior to joining insitro, Mei was a CIRM (California Institute for Regenerative Medicine) Scholar at the Gladstone Institute working on iPSC neurodegenerative diseases modeling. Mei obtained her B.Sc. in Biology with an emphasis on cellular/molecular biology and a minor in chemistry from Humboldt State University.
In her spare time, Mei enjoys photography, visit art exhibits, live music and performances, reading, hiking, exploring new places and try different cuisines.
Nav has extensive experience working at the intersection of next generation sequencing, microfluidics, and single cell technologies. His focus at insitro involves designing and analyzing high throughput sequencing experiments in order to support indication specific drug discovery pipelines and the functional genomics team.
Nav acquired his undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering at UC Berkeley followed by a PhD in Biological Engineering at MIT. His graduate research focused on developing novel targeted sequencing technologies to make single cell genomic experimental more feasible and to understand patterns of DNA damage. While completing his PhD, Nav also served as a Communication Fellow at the Broad Institute where he mentored scientists through the process of written, verbal, and visual presentations of science.
In his free time, Nav is an avid proponent of indoor and outdoor sports ranging from lounging on a couch to climbing up and skiing down mountains.
Owen spent four and a half years as a member of Dr. Jonathan Weissman’s Lab at UCSF, where he supported the development RNAi-based and CRISPR-based mammalian genome-scale functional genomics screening platforms, successfully identifying new targets for grants and publications. He cloned and maintained ultracomplex shRNA/sgRNA screening libraries as well as generated stable cell lines with gene repression or activation. Additionally, he conducted numerous functional genomic screens in cancer cell lines challenged by various toxins, drugs, and chemicals.
After his time at UCSF, he spent two and a half years at Driver, where he developed NGS assays and validated tumor-normal and cfDNA manual assays under CAP and CLIA guidelines. He also had fun acquiring a new set of skills in converting these manual assays into fully automated processes.