Director, Automation

South San Francisco, CA, United States
May 23, 2021
Required Education
Bachelors Degree
Position Type
Full time

We seek an experienced and creative Director of Automation to lead the implementation of solutions that tie together scientific instrumentation, automation, and laboratory data management across Sana's cell and gene therapies portfolio. In this role you will work closely with research and process development teams to build automated robotic systems for iPSCs (cell culture, clone selection, and differentiation), genome engineering at scale, high throughput screening (molecular & protein based), and Next Generation Sequencing, to increase the efficiency and reproducibility of our research and process development platforms. You will also work with the analytical teams in Development Sciences and Technical Operations to establish scalable solutions for the manufacturing and analysis of gene & cell therapy products. The qualified individual must have a proven track record of understanding, implementing, troubleshooting, and optimizing processes in an industry setting such as small molecule screening, genetic screening, or complex cell culture methods. As a leader in evaluating, recommending, and implementing automation solutions, this individual must partner and communicate closely with members of informatics, process development, and research teams across sites. The ability to work in a highly collaborative environment, adapt to changing needs, and an agile team first mind-set will be critical to success.

  • Partner with internal stakeholders in Research, Technology Sciences, and Technical Operations to identify gaps and propose automation solutions that combines sciences with engineering
  • Develop and implement multi-year automation roadmap including mission, goals, and budgets that align with business strategy and evolve with business needs
  • Help identify and recommend new opportunities to continuously improve current solutions for reliability, efficiency and quality
  • Foster a culture of innovation within the team and with stakeholders to challenge the status quo leveraging both new technologies and creative solutions within existing systems
  • Participate in the execution of complex, integrated projects - proactively identifying risks and mitigation strategies while communicating to stakeholders and driving timelines
  • Direct and lead a team of automation engineers to develop, deploy, and maintain automation hardware and software across multiple sites
  • Work with Lab Facilities & Operations to plan for site and space needs, installation of automation hardware, and tracking of automation supplies
  • Work closely with business subject matter experts to develop business process workflows and translate automation requirements into solutions from data capture through analytics
  • Provide end user training, material, and support for various automation systems, and ELN & LIMS as it relates to end-to-end automation workflows
  • Own the integration of existing and new automation lab hardware from requirements and specifications gathering to launch and scale-up
  • Interface with interdisciplinary teams to enable rapid prototyping and releasing of systems that involve hardware & software engineers, informatics infrastructure, IT and scientists
  • Partner closely with stakeholders to understand their business processes and develop creative solutions using robotics, lab automation, and software solutions that help them measurably improve outcomes
  • Manage the RFQ process for vendor selection for hardware, software and technology solutions as required


Basic Qualifications
  • BS with 10+ years of pharma/biotech industry experience or MS/PhD with 6+ years of biotech/pharma industry experience in relevant fields (science, engineering)
  • Experience in defining, scoping, budgeting and managing technology initiatives
  • Strong understanding of cell & molecular biology, laboratory functions and processes, and end-to-end core laboratory system workflows including data integrity principles, instrument integration, and optimization of digital laboratory workflows
  • > 6 years of experience designing, implementing, and supporting laboratory automation solutions
  • Experience leading a lab automation or instrument software team
  • Strong leadership skills exemplified by the ability to motivate, hire and mentor highly technical teams
  • Fluent with Python (or similar) and Linux
  • Experience with automated liquid handlers (e.g. Hamilton, HiRes, CyBio FeliX) and integrating off-the-shelf lab instrumentation using manufacturer supplied libraries and creating or editing liquid handling methods (e.g. HiRes Cellario)
  • Experience viewing and interpreting technical information, and writing SOPs
  • Demonstrated experience in scoping user requirements and creating business process documentation
  • Demonstrated knowledge and experience with integration of lab automation workflows with LIMS
  • Excellent verbal and written communicate skills for technical and non-technical audiences at all levels within the organization
  • Demonstrated strong critical thinking, problem-solving abilities and organizational skills
  • Must be detail oriented, self-motivated, independent, flexible, and able to prioritize and manage several projects concurrently in a fast-paced start-up environment
  • Demonstrated ability to work in cross-functional teams as a strong team player as well as independently
  • Demonstrated ability to exhibit curiosity with scientific rigor and relationships
  • Ability to engage in crucial conversations - providing and receiving feedback
  • Working safely in person on a predictable and regular in-person basis is an essential job function for this position and the Company requires that all individuals working in-person, subject to certain exceptions, be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Preferred Qualifications
  • Experience with Benchling
  • Knowledge with developing and deploying GxP systems
  • Familiarity with FAIR data principles and best practices in software engineering


This individual will manage a team (approx. 4) that is focused on bringing cutting edge automation and data engineering solutions to aid in the progression of engineered cells as medicine

To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. The job description listed above is representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

At Sana, we believe that a diverse workforce strengthens us as a company and helps us to achieve our mission to meaningfully change the outcome of many human diseases. This belief is a pillar of our business and is critical to our success. Our goal is that Sana is the place for talented people to bring their authentic selves to work, to have a great career and to deeply, positively impact patients.

The Company is committed to providing a workplace free of discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, age, gender, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental or sensory disability (including the use of a trained guide dog or service animal by a person with a disability), genetic information, actual or perceived HIV or Hepatitis C infection, medical condition (cancer or a record or history of cancer and genetic characteristics), marital status, sexual orientation, sexual preference, pregnancy (including childbirth and related medical conditions), disability, veteran status, political ideology, taking or requesting statutorily protected leave, status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, or any other basis prohibited by applicable law.

Core to our values, we believe there is nothing more important than the health and wellness of you and your family. We cover 100% of the cost for employee health coverage and offer generous time-off, parental leave, short and long term disability, financial wellness programs, a 401(k) Plan, Employee Stock Purchase Plan, commuter subsidy and a variety of wellness offerings to support each person individually.