Zymergen Site Visit

On May 14th, the Lab-Industry Network Connection (LINC) organized the first company site visit to directly experience their working culture. A group of 20 postdocs from LBNL had the honor to visit the Zymergen headquarters. Our host Silas Carleton, senior recruiter at Zymergen, welcomed us and kicked off the visit by sharing Zymergen’s vision of combining biotechnology, big data and automation to create new products.

We first had the pleasure to meet Jed Dean, one of the co-founders of Zymergen six years ago. He took us through a journey in time and space, from studying biology at Purdue and Stanford to his transition to industry in Amyris – when, together with a few friends, realized  they needed to implement more robotics into biotechnology. And so started Zymergen, to produce massive amounts of  data that  enable data-driven decisions and new discoveries beyond the human intuition. As a startup they constantly had to reinvent themselves, as they grew from 3 to 750 people in six years time. What are the most important skills according to Jed? Communication, giving and receiving feedback constantly, and project management.

Next up was a panel with four scientists, Amanda Apel, Drew Thacker, Nico Herman and Ann Hao, who wanted to share their experiences with us. It was really inspiring to learn how they diversified from a scientific background into different roles such as management positions, lab oriented positions or teaching and mentoring. They also highlighted the relevance of fluid communication within one’s team but also with other departments.

Afterwards we got on a lab tour. First was the tour to the sandbox, where robots are working 24/7 to generate a large library of genetic diversity. The second group got to go to a more classical biology wet lab, where they do the low volume work. Even the low volume work needs a good tracking system, which is implemented thoroughly barcodes everywhere

We closed up the visit with a networking lunch, where Dacia Leon and Ken Bruno joined us.

Many thanks Silas and Zymergen for having us, LBNL postdocs visit you, and we hope to continue a good relationship!