SURFACE CHEMIST/ENGINEER - SCIENTIST LEVEL I-II at Koniku Inc.
San Rafael, CA, US

Koniku is an early-stage, rapidly-growing company based in Silicon Valley. We build smell cyborgs by merging genetically modified living biological neurons with classic devices. Our flagship device, the Konikore™, detects smells using GPCR’s or olfactory receptor proteins hosted in biological cells. There are dynamic applications in healthcare, security, synthetic flavors & foods, and much more. 

We partner with a range of Fortune 500 companies as Technology Integrators and have been recently featured by The Financial Times, CNN, Bloomberg, TechCrunch & others. Notable partners, customers and investors include: Airbus, BASF, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Fraunhofer Institute Stuttgart, P&G, SoftBank, Platform Capital, IndieBio (SOSv).  

Beyond the numerous B2B opportunities, we aim to have a Konikore in ten million homes as a real-time disease diagnostic tool within the next decade. Koniku is a face-to-face company and our campus & culture are the nucleus of the Koniku spirit. Our headquarters include a next-generation deep technology Wetlab and a robust manufacturing facility, alongside our corporate, administrative & customer support teams. We are driven by a fundamental belief that “Bio is Tech™”.

JOB SUMMARY

The candidate's role is that of an effective technology contributor in terms of materials engineering, science, and consulting company-wide. Your role in the first 1-2 months is understanding why we have made significant progress in materials cells interfacing where many others have failed. You will need to understand how the technology works, then understand why it works. Answering the “why” should only go far enough to tackle the questions of how to make the system serve new customer demands. Dear candidate, your initial goal is a short-term one. 

You will get into the wetlab, dry labs, Koniku imaging centers, fabrication rooms, and scale-up facilities to design and implement effective solutions for the short term. You will collaborate with internal and external scale-up partners to implement solutions for large-scale surface modification and engineering. 

In parallel we expect you to design programs that implement long-term solutions that maintain the Konikore’s lead as the most advanced, robust, functional, and precise smell cyborg anywhere in the world by a huge margin. You will see the shortcomings of the technology stack under customer conditions and address these shortcomings with robust and reliable industry-grade solutions.

WHY IT MATTERS

We believe the cell materials interface is greatly underestimated, misunderstood and ignored in building medical devices, in vitro technologies and systems and more. At Koniku materials science and engineering are central. 

The Konikore™ also occupies a unique product space where genetic alteration of cells, use of synthetic materials - passive or active -  is relatively unconstrained. In other words, a lot of creativity and innovation is possible with nearly non existent consequences. That is, we are synthetic from first principles. 

The role of our surface chemist is genuinely unique because it opens up the possibility of testing many concepts on a large scale. Imagine having thousands to millions of devices running a substrate with the possibility of real-time feedback on material performance, cell surface interaction, and more. You are simultaneously helping the world “map all the volatile organic compounds that impact human life” from security to planet-scale healthcare. 

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Drive a comprehensive & thorough understanding of factors that guide and promote the attachment or adhesion of cells on a myriad of substrates or surfaces. 
  • Use your experience and knowledge to design scalable adhesion promoters that are compatible or adjacent to existing industrial processes.
  • The candidate will establish strict, data-driven performance criteria for materials biocompatibility company-wide.
  • Establish SOPs or processes which ensure clearly defined biocompatibility in small scale experiments, technology development, and provide expert advice on biocompatibility in our scale up operations.
  • Measure, analyse and optimize neuron (cell) - surface binding and interactions.
  • Internally drive short and long term technology development programs that focus Koniku’s attention on the characterization, engineering or functionalization of the cell/neuron-to-material interface.
  • Hire and build out a neuron materials interactions team with a long term mandate.
  • Create and manage partnerships with industry and academia (with strong translational credentials) to accelerate and define useful industry standards.

QUALIFICATIONS & EXPERIENCE

  • A PhD in material science,  chemistry (science or engineering) or polymer chemistry, chemical engineering or surface chemistry, bioengineering, or related discipline. Strong preference for individuals with industrial experience or exiting a research group with strong translational research track record.
  • Five years experience in the industry doing related tasks, that is, surface engineering for industrial processes or surface coating or modification for implantable medical devices. Experience with surface coating for in vitro products used for cell culture is also of considerable value.
  • Experience with adherent mammalian cell cultures is desired. Experience with neural cell or neural stem cells cultures is strongly preferred. 
  • Familiarity engineered biomaterials for specific cell behaviour or outcome is strongly desired. That is the patterning of 2D or 3D cell microenvironments to achieve a specific outcome.
  • Deep experience with modification of glass, plastic or polymer surfaces for in vitro application.
  • Experience with microcontact printing, photolithography, self-assembled monolayers, DNA-programmed assembly of cells or cells to surface or other techniques.
  • A solid understanding of surface characterization tools is expected.
  • Experience with micro-fludics is a strong plus. 
  • Exceptionally resourceful and problem-solving skills.
  • An ambitious, motivated self-starter with a can-do attitude and can get things done with transparent results.
  • You are detail-oriented, immaculately organized and with good communication skills.

COMPENSATION & BENEFITS

  • Salary range $100,000 - $150,000 per year (depending on qualification and justified ability to deliver on exact metrics). 
  • Generous sign-on bonus and performance-based grants.
  • Opportunity to participate in the company's employee equity program.
  • Employer-sponsored 401K plan with 4% matching. 
  • Generous health, life, dental and vision insurance.
  • Paid & flexible vacation.
  • Fully-paid parental leave.
  • Reserved parking and commuter benefits.