Ajamete “Aj” Kaykas, Chief eXploration Officer and Head of Neuroscience
Chief eXploration Officer and Head of Neuroscience
Ajamete “Aj” Kaykas, Chief eXploration Officer and Head of Neuroscience
As Chief eXploration Officer and Head of Neuroscience, Aj leads insitro’s Advanced Technology exploration (ATX) group which identifies and pilots in vitro technologies (disease modeling, imaging, genomics/functional genomics screening) to be deployed across all indications at insitro. He also leads insitro’s Neuroscience Therapeutic area which is responsible for target discovery/validation and overseeding the Neuroscience portfolio.
Ajamete has spent over 30 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 was also a director at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, a scientist at Viral Logic System Technology and an associate scientist at Immunex corporation in the early 1990s . 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, hiking, kayaking, sailing, biking, making whiskey, and spending time with his family.
The future of cerebral organoids in drug discovery.
Max R Salick, Eric Lubeck, Adam Riesselman & Ajamete Kaykas
Semin Cell Dev Biol 2021 Mar;111:67-73.
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
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.
Associate Director of Functional Genomics
As the Director of Functional Genomics, Chu leads insitro’s genetic screening 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.
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Cynthia Hao is an Associate Scientist developing pooled screening and image analysis workflows to glean insight into complex disease phenotypes from insitro’s cell models. She is also building systems to collect and analyze high-quality microscopy data at scale.
Cynthia earned a B.S. in Bioengineering and an M.S. in Computer Science, both from Stanford University. She completed her honors thesis on pooled CRISPR screening methods for microscopy phenotypes in Professor Roger Kornberg’s lab, for which she optimized screening protocols, carried out high-throughput CRISPR screens, and implemented and parallelized a computational image analysis pipeline. During her time at Stanford, she also worked in various academic labs, on projects ranging from building a rationally designed cell to DNA synthesis in outer space.
In her free time, Cynthia enjoys trying new recipes, costume design sketching, and making music.
Flora is an Associate Scientist in the Functional Genomic team and she is working on building the CRISPR-based genomic discovery platform, focusing on developing novel CRISPR screening technologies and assays.
Prior to joining insitro, Flora was working on high-throughput genomic engineering in various microbes using automation at a biotech startup. Before then she was working on epigenetic studies on Arabidopsis thaliana with focus on DNA repair and environmental stress response at Salk Institute. She also gained her experience in studying the mechanisms controlling the early steps in organogenesis in the vertebrate embryo at Gail Martin Lab, UCSF. Flora has a background in molecular biology and obtained her B.Sc. in Human Biology from UC San Diego.
In her spare time, Flora enjoys swimming, traveling internationally, and trying new cuisines.
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.
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/
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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.
Shengjiang is a biochemist with interests in stem cell biology, transcription regulation, epigenetics, and CRISPR technologies. At insitro, he works on the functional genomics and phenotyping team to help build the CRISPR-based genomic discovery platform, focusing on developing novel CRISPR screening technologies and assays.
As a chemist by training, Shengjiang obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry at Ohio State University. While working in Dr. Ming-Daw Tsai’s lab, his graduate studies focused on de novo chromatin modifying enzyme discovery and enzyme targeting on the genome. During that process, he appreciated the power of chemistry, yeast genetics, and proteomics. Afterwards Shengjiang conducted his postdoc with Dr. Danny Reinberg at Howard Hughes Medical Institute / New York University School of Medicine on chromatin biology, where he combined proteomics, genomics, as well as CRISPR knock-in, knock-out, and genetic screen techniques in cells and mice to tackle exciting stem cell and germ cell biology questions. In 2017, he joined a regenerative medicine startup Surrozen, where he worked on adult stem cells differentiation and function assays related to Wnt signaling, as well as bi-specific antibody engineering.
In his spare time, Shengjiang enjoys hiking with his family, watching football with his son and following NFL and NCAA football news.