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04.08.2021 | Published by bit.bio

bit.bio | employee spotlight with dr oliver dovey


Name: Dr Oliver Dovey
Role: Director of Functional Genomics
Joined: 2020
Academic background: 
Undergraduate degree, University of East London, human physiology. - first class honours and awarded the Dean’s prize for academic excellence.
PhD at Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts in a newly established lab with Prof. Shaun Cowley working on chromatin and how chromatin modifying enzymes impact mouse stem cell differentiation.


How did you get your role at bit.bio? 

I was working at the Sanger Institute in 2018 as Head of Cellular Operations in the Gene Editing Team when the position of Head of high throughput genome editing came up as Sanger had switched from using mouse models to using human iPSCs as a model system. I had to build up a team and the knowledge from scratch which I really enjoyed. And after two years, everything was running beautifully and I'd really enjoyed the challenge. It was when I was looking to try and commercialise some of the things that we were doing in Sanger Institute that bit.bio reached out to me. Mark Kotter just approached me at the right time, and said essentially, can you do something similar to what you're doing now at Sanger, but on a bigger scale, and in a commercial environment? I knew it was the perfect next step.

“I always enjoy Lego and building things, making things, and that what genetic engineering is like.”

I recruited and grew the functional genomics team to what it is now 18 of us and built the knowledge base and capability base that bit.bio needs. And now we're trying to build the capacity for the rest of the building, there are still a lot of things to do.

resized Oli and Andy compressed photo (1)

What does your team do?

Our mission is coding cells for novel cures and my team is instrumental to all parts of that. We are looking at high throughput screening as part of our discovery platform to find transcription factor combinations - our coding words - for human cell types and we are also part of cell type manufacturing and development. At bit.bio I have built and now lead our functional genomics group along with six senior scientists, who each have distinct, different, diverse skills. We have a cell engineering group, discovery group and technical development team essentially designing new technologies, developing our opti-ox™ technology further and further, to help improve screening practices and also improve the cell engineering aspects of what we do at bit.bio. We also have a synthetic biology group and they are looking at novel ways of enhancing ourselves to have more synthetic circuitry. We have a next generation sequencing group which developed tools for high throughput screening. An automation team, I'd say some of those roles are to do with supporting the cell engineering, making it a bit more hands free. Screening is enormous, massive, you know, billions of cells each cell being an individual experimental setting.

“You realise over time that everything is down to molecular biology.”

Essentially we are developing technologies and building a better understanding of what we can and can’t do, how far we can push cell reprogramming - not just the cell type itself, but how we can engineer cells even further to be more bespoke to particular disease settings or clinical and customer needs.

What’s it like to work at bit.bio in your team?

I’ve always challenged myself. And I kind of expect that from our people, we want people to challenge themselves and also challenge each other, challenge the status quo of biology and technical development, people who share our vision for what functional genomics is.

We want a culture where people have innovative ideas, and are able to express them. And people who expect and are quite happy for ideas to fail as long as we learn from it. We don't do anything unless we can learn from it.

“Culture at bit.bio is more like a “gang” where we have a shared goal. We have great team spirit and trust each other.”

I’m also very keen on an idea called psychological safety that helps ensure people feel you’re looking after them, that they are appreciated. It’s about taking the time to lend an ear to listen, to appreciate, to help people when the company is growing so fast. The culture has always been evolving, and the fact that we're able to recruit like minded people really helps.

If you’re interested in a role that is looking to answer fundamental biological questions and being a part of a very unique and interconnected team then functional genomics could be for you!
Check out our current open positions.

And what do you do in your spare time?

My son ​​is into a lot of sports - rugby in particular. So I spend a lot of time following him around, watching him at matches or playing sports together. 

“I’m a Portsmouth fan. I've seen bad days.”

I like reading and I’ve been dragging around this JFK biography by Michael O'Brien for about a year now. I dip in and out a bit. Leaders from history really fascinate me as I like to learn. I'm always looking for inspiration. I'm also a big fan of Ray Dalio and the principles book. It speaks to me a lot.

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