Name | Luca Crepaldi Role | Group Leader, Discovery Screening Joined | 2021 Academic background | Master in Biotechnologies, PhD in Neuroscience
Tell us about yourself? What is your background?
I studied Biotechnologies in Verona (a beautiful Italian town often overshadowed by its more flashy neighbour, Venice) where I took my first steps as a molecular and cell biologist, followed by a PhD in Neuroscience at Innsbruck Medical University (another spectacular town). My work focused on understanding the transcriptional regulation of neuronal genes, an interest I pursued further during my postdoc years in London (a city that needs no introduction). The overarching question that always fascinated me - and where all my humble attempts as a scientist focused - is how the information encoded in DNA translates into a cell phenotype.
Luca giving a chalktalk at the Royal Institution, as part of a symposium in collaboration with LIMS.
How did you get your current role? What was the career path?
I spent 6 years at the Wellcome Trust Sanger institute running CRISPR screens to figure out how genes affect cell functions such as DNA damage repair, and built a strong understanding of large scale screening technologies. Characterising transcription factor reprogramming sets for all cell types is one of bit.bio’s core ambitions, which can be achieved only by developing a robust, high-throughput screening platform. I think my expertise on screening technologies combined with my long-standing interest in the molecular biology of transcriptional regulation made me a strong candidate for my current post.
The discovery team develop, optimise, and perform genetic screening with the aim of generating terminally differentiated target cell types from iPSCs. Tell us a bit about your role in the discovery team and how you collaborate with the wider functional genomics team?
Since the discovery team was assembled a year ago, I focused on establishing a platform that runs large and small scale standardised screens with a rapid turnover, to make sure we generate as much data as possible, rapidly and using our resources efficiently. The fun part is to adapt the experimental design to the different cellular targets.
Within our team I try to foster an environment of trust where everyone feels safe, with eyes both on the quality of our work and the delivery of our targets. However screens are multidisciplinary, monumental efforts that require the contribution of experts from many different fields, from developmental biology to automation, synthetic biology, next generation sequencing and bioinformatics - to name a few. It’s a privilege to have immediate access to all these functions, and I love being in the middle of it. Making sure that every element of the process is functional and available at the right time is an exciting challenge.
Luca with the team in front of bit.bio headquarters.
What would you consider good skills and qualifications for your job? And how do you use them on a day-to-day basis?
Besides a good scientific understanding, communication is paramount. Different fields have different languages and one needs to be able to make themselves understood in all of them. Given that many people may play a small part in the overall screening process, it takes good leadership skills to make everyone feel part of a shared endeavour. This means that for one target I may pass my days discussing technology, experimental design, protocols, results and data with a dozen experts across as many disciplines, sometimes focusing on the long-term development of new technologies, sometimes sharing a screen packed with data, looking for the needle in the haystack.
What achievement are you most proud of and what are your future goals?
I’m proud of how our small team is working: despite all the disappointments that are part of a scientist's life we enjoy being together, learn from each other, and share the ups and downs.
Luca with his daughters enjoying camping.
Luca with his daughter spending time in nature.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love hiking with my family (not sure my daughters can say the same), I play the guitar poorly (my daughters agree on this), read science fiction novels, eat pizza, fantasise about surviving a zombie apocalypse.
About usCoding cells to advance the wellbeing of humanity