- hands-on farming
- commercial agricultural technology
- leading academia and research partnerships
- next-generation genomics
- bioinformatics and data science development
- software engineering and app development
- strategy and operations
Such skills enable us to deliver consistent high value to our customers and to continue to push the boundaries of technology. For proof, just take a look at our case studies.
Carina Minna Andersen
Carina Minna Andersen
People & Operations Coordinator
Carina is a highly trained and motivated Executive Assistant and Office Manager with over 13 years of experience providing clerical support to executive professionals.
She maintains and constantly updates our calendar of events, schedules our meetings, and applies her time-management skills to all manner of other clerical tasks. She believes she has found her spot at Synomics, as it’s a fast-growing company where executives take time to help their employees. Carina is a former paralegal who loves few things more than a good hug, hopping on a flight to anywhere, and staying strong with heavy lifting.
IP and Regulatory Counsel
Cassie is a scientist and a registered patent attorney with over a decade of experience in intellectual property, regulatory, licensing & corporate law, and IP due diligence. She has global experience protecting IP and driving regulatory approvals in the areas of biotechnology and bioengineering from plants to animals, in private practice and in-house for U.S. and U.K. publicly traded companies.
She completed Harvard Business School’s General Management Program, holds a B.S. in Molecular Genetics with honors from The Ohio State University, an M.S. with an emphasis on Biomathematics from North Carolina State University, and obtained her law degree with honors from Drake University.
Chief Operating Officer
The spinner of plates
As the Operations Manager for Synomics, leading the business operations and HR for the UK, US and Denmark offices, Jennie Wilson describes herself simply as ‘the do-er of stuff and the spinner of plates.’
It’s an apt description for a senior professional who has a broad range of experience in operational and HR-related roles across a variety of industries of all sizes, from international law firms and diamonds to fine wines and Industry 4.0 software solutions. “I have experience working in start-up culture but have also experienced mid-size and large corporates too,” she explains. “This broad exposure has meant I’ve built many transferable skills which will help to set us up for success as we scale. A particular skill I have is the ability to see the bigger picture, implement necessary process while also being mindful of the speed and flexibility required during the early stages.”
Moving to Synomics was a no-brainer for Jennie, who went on to say “being part of a pioneering business like this at the very early stages really gives you the opportunity to help shape something amazing and make work a great place to be. Working with a leadership team who are ethically aligned and totally committed to building a fantastic company from the ground up, not just for our customers but for our colleagues too, is an inspiration and an exciting place to be.”
Previously, as Operations and HR Manager for a technology start-up, Jennie acted as what she describes as ‘the internal conscience’ of the business, ensuring compliance and being the go-to person for internal issues. She created and implemented operational frameworks from scratch supporting six countries, managed the employee journey and single-handedly led the international head-hunting campaign to recruit leading-edge software engineers at pace to enable scalable growth.
“I led the delivery of ISO27001 accreditation and looked after transactional HR and Employee Relations across the business,” she continues. “During that time, I also took the plunge and gained my HR qualification; I’m now an Associate member of the CIPD.”
When not spinning plates at work, Jennie juggles a husband, a rambunctious toddler and a crazy Irish Setter who all like to keep her on her toes. She is always looking for the next learning opportunity, and during 2020 she completed a foundation qualification in Counselling Skills and a qualification in Mental Health First Aid.
A mission to turn data into meaningful biological insight
As Executive Chairman of Synomics, one might be forgiven for thinking Jon has devoted his whole life to genomics. While he does indeed have more than 25 years’ experience as a science and engineering practitioner, he doesn’t mind admitting that he took something of a meandering route to get there, and serendipity played a key part in his journey.
A self-confessed nerd at school with a passion for maths and computer science, he first considered jumping on the commercial bandwagon while studying Math and Computer Science at a State University in Pennsylvania, having watched one of his professors quit education to join Microsoft and work on a new operating system, called ‘Windows’. Instead, he joined the army and was stationed in Germany at the height of the Cold War: “I spent two years being woken up in the middle of the night and expecting to die,” he jokes.
After an honourable discharge Jon used the GI Bill to complete a BS degree at York College of Pennsylvania. Although he started as a pre-vet student en route to becoming a farmer (his aunt had been a powerful influence during his youth as one of only a handful of single women farmers in the 1960s and 70s), he became ‘bewitched’ by plant science and chemistry and decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Plant Sciences. His decision to choose Washington State University in Eastern Washington was finalized on a recruiting visit: “The seminal presentation was from a laboratory study on the chemistry in pine trees, harvesting samples with a chain saw and then examining them using a mass spectrometer. Where else could you imagine two greater extremes of technology!”
With an academic role somewhat difficult to come by, and by now married with children, Jon took a post-Doctoral position at DuPont, working on technology to make healthier seed oils. A temporary appointment became a permanent role, and Jon became something of an expert in seeds and early genomic technology within the DuPont Pioneer business, as what we now call GMO technologies were revolutionizing the seed business.
After 25 years working in plant genetic R&D Jon joined Genus in 2013. As Chief R&D and Scientific Officer he pivoted to using genetics to improve animal health and productivity. He was tempted out of retirement in 2019 to join Synomics as Executive Chairman: “We’ve moved from an era in the 1990s of discovering a single genome to now being able to identify hundreds, but where we’ve fallen short is in understanding how we can turn all of that additional data into meaningful biological insight. Accumulating data is not enough; we need to ask questions of it”.
Jonathan says that Synomics has a genuinely unique technology that will allow it to unlock the next wave of improvements in genetics and genomes and make positive disruptions in food production:
“We can be a catalyst and enabler of positive change,” he concludes.
Successful careers in both academia and industry
Nessa Carey has had successful careers in both academia and industry and now works as an independent consultant, providing support to some of the UK’s leading universities and institutes.
“I specialise in the earlier stages of innovation, creating value from the conversion of cutting-edge research into viable commercial opportunities, a role I fulfil for both the private sector, and organizations such as the University of Oxford where I’m a Royal Society Entrepreneur-in-Residence,” she explains.
With a PhD in Virology from the University of Edinburgh, Nessa has enjoyed a distinguished career with a particular specialism in Epigenetics and Drug Discovery. She is a keen advocate of Science Communication for the General Public and in the professional development of young researchers. She is both a Registered Technology Transfer Professional and Visiting Professor at Imperial College London.
“I’m a strong believer that technology will make the world a better place, through improved food security achieved with lower environmental impact,” she continues.
“I’m striving to share this belief with non-specialists through my popular science books and am putting it into practice on a tiny scrap of land filled with vegetables, chickens and a wide range of habitats!”
Chief Financial Officer
Head of Finance
Paul Crotty likes being an accountant. Not so much the technical aspects of accounting, but rather being involved in business, in building new facilities and laboratories, and learning and understanding different sectors.
It’s why he’s a Chartered Certified Accountant and has spent the last 30 years working across a range of different industries, building knowledge and expertise.
He has become especially expert in recent years in the biotechnology and early-stage enterprise space, having been Financial Controller and latterly Global Finance Director for Oxitec, a business developing biological solutions to controlling pests that spread disease and destroy crops. Various other interim positions led him to Synomics:
“I was drawn to Synomics because they operate in an industry I understand,” he explains, “and because of the ethos of what the team is trying to do. How they use algorithms and interrogate data is also relevant to my past experience, and the company is full of very clever people who it’s easy to be inspired by.”
Paul likes to help businesses grow, another key attraction, and to that end has considerable experience of both UK and international operations: “I’ve worked for companies owned by the Dutch, Japanese, French, Germans, and Americans, and that has exposed me to many different cultures and people which I hope will be of value as we grow, especially as we are already working actively with partners in Brazil and the US.”
While Paul skipped university initially to study for his AAT and go on to become a fully-qualified ACCA (he is now a Fellow), he recently got part-way through a Bachelor’s degree in Viticulture and Oenology, exploring the science of grapegrowing and winemaking, a passion he shares with Synomics’ CEO Peter Kristensen.
At home and to his family, he is very much a ‘Mr Fixit’, having spent four months helping to renovate his daughter’s home and as the chief mechanic seeing to the needs of his son’s motorbike: “It’s nice to be back in front of a screen for a change,” he jokes.
Chief Executive Officer
Building on a family tradition of veterinary knowledge
Peter Kristensen never had any doubts about becoming a vet. It was in the blood. As a little boy, he would follow his uncle on his country rounds, and was brought up on a diet of James Herriot and getting his hands dirty: “I grew up with my wellies on,” he laughs.
With maternal and paternal relatives who ran farms near to where he was born on the east coast of Denmark, 20km from Aarhus, it was also inevitable that the young Peter would carry on what was effectively a family tradition. After school and an obligatory 12 months in the military, Peter went to Copenhagen and studied for six years to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
An internship with Pillen Family farms, a Nebraska-based family-owned farming operation and a leader in the pork production industry proved something of a game-changer. Peter joined the Farms’ veterinary team, ultimately on a permanent basis, and developed under the expert guidance of Jim Pillen: “He was instrumental in shaping how I behave and lead in business,” Peter explains, “and that results are made through people.”
An enjoyable time working in the US (which accounts for Peter’s US English accent) was followed by an equally successful period with the privately-held German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, where he held several international management positions within Animal Health. Working out of Vienna he was given responsibility for launching a new Animal Health programme in Eastern Europe. “In four years I’d done business in close to 40 different countries,” Peter says. “It helps makes you rounded and I’ve been able to bring that experience of working with and across so many different cultures into my current role.”
Peter joined Grosvenor Food & AgTech in August 2015 from Genus PLC, where he had managed its porcine business in EMEA. In the meantime he’d studied for an Executive MBA at the IMD Business School in Lausanne, whose alumni also include Grosvenor Food & AgTech chairman.
Within the Group his role was to help develop the individual portfolio companies and increase the value through realising the potential synergies that exist between these innovative businesses.
It was not long, however, that he hankered for another operational responsibility: “I wanted to live some of the advice I’d been happily dishing out and create something new,” he laughs. The opportunity created, was Synomics.
Peter likens Synomics to being a Food Operating System (OS), where the ultimate success of the business will be judged on the quality and biology of the food produced through the insights it can deliver: “Unlocking the power of biology and feeding the world’s billions in a sustainable way is a gigantic ambition,” he admits, “but I believe we have the tools to do it.”
In the meantime, Peter’s life of study continues, and he’s managed to combine it with another passion – wine. “I’m progressing up the levels of the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) qualification,” he says. “I had to have something else to focus on during lockdown.”
Ryan comes from a long line of farmers and was born and raised in Northern Ireland. He ultimately broke from tradition and decided on a career in biological sciences instead, achieving a BSc (Hons) in Applied Genetics and an MSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.
During his time working in a US-based genetics lab, it became clear to him that the future of science was not only about generating interesting questions, but also about the tools needed to analyze the scientific big data. This led him to become passionate about bioinformatics, using it extensively during his PhD in genomics which he completed in 2020.
Ryan joined Synomics as he was attracted by the massive potential of our disruptive combinatorial analytics technology to feed future generations through crop and animal efficiency and yield increases.
He loves travelling, playing 5-a-side football, and talking about the band he used to be in when he was a teenager.
Steffen is from Germany and enjoys the exciting and challenging tasks that working with Synomics’ technology offers. His regards his daughter as his proudest achievement and enjoys biking, walking, skating and, afterwards, relaxing.
Fascinated by the power of data in driving better decision-making
Steve Gardner says he’s been fascinated throughout his career by the power of combining data from multiple sources to help people make better decisions: “I started doing this in molecular modelling, building systems to help design new protein and drug molecules, before moving into text, genomics and medical data,” he explains.
“I applied this as Director of Research Informatics for Astra where I was responsible for integrating all of the company’s global R&D information. I was also involved in the early days of the Human Genome Project where our systems were used to integrate all of the new data suddenly becoming available and to turn these into new insights and drug targets across a wide range of diseases.”
After graduating with a BSc in Pathobiology from the University of Reading, Steve went on to Birkbeck and UCL to complete a PhD in Protein Databases and Modelling. He started his career as a Senior Product Manager at Oxford Molecular, since when he has gone on to hold a number of senior roles within various biotech, pharmaceutical and healthcare businesses in the UK, US and Europe.
He started PrecisionLife as an analytics-driven precision medicine company in 2014 and is a co-founder of the Synomics business: “We founded Synomics to bring the ground-breaking analytical power that we’ve developed in the PrecisionLife platform to the challenge of improving the efficiency and sustainability of the global agri-tech industry,” he explains.
“Where I use these tools in PrecisionLife to gain a deeper understanding of what drives complex diseases in people, we can also use them in Synomics to get a better understanding of what drives health, welfare, production, and fertility traits in key food and pet species. My fascination is designing and building better, more accurate tools that can be used in the real-world – to improve tangibly the efficiency of selective breeding, to increase animal welfare, and to put better tools in the hands of farmers to make them more productive.”
Steve says he’s been lucky to have worked with the wider Wheatsheaf team across three of the businesses he’s founded: “All of these companies are currently addressing major global challenges: innovating new anti-microbial hygiene solutions for the food industry, delivering precision medicine for better human healthcare, and now developing next generation tools for the agricultural and animal health markets.
Being a part of creating new products, teams and businesses in such important areas is demanding and rewarding. I learn new things everyday, I get to work with great teams of highly skilled and dedicated people, and together we get to create real value for our customers. For me this makes it a real privilege.”
Outside of Synomics, Steve works with a number of related charities; he’s an Advisory Council member for Breast Cancer Now and on the Steering Committee of the UKCRC Tissue Coordination Centre:
“I’m also often to be found on a classic hill climb,” he adds, “watching cricket or designing and making furniture for our lovely Cotswolds home!”
Senior Software Engineer
Tim is originally from Madison, Wisconsin, USA, but now lives in Cambridge, England. He chose to work for us because the world is increasing need of solutions to combat the climate crisis and he believes Synomics has the potential to make a huge impact in agricultural greenhouse gas management. His proudest achievement has been safely moving continents with his wife and three pets during a pandemic. In his spare time, he enjoys DIY cooking projects, such as brewing his own beer, making his own wine, canning, pickling, and anything else he can make from scratch.
Senior Data Scientist
Tobias is from the dark north of Denmark and joined Synomics because he loves computational statistics and wanted to be able to use it to do something beneficial for the world.
He is a fan of any outdoor activity, but particularly likes lifting things.
Senior Quantitative Geneticist
Originally born and raised in Tehran, Iran, Yalda moved to the US in 2009 to study for her PhD. Since then, she has lived in Madison, Wisconsin.
With her passion for technology innovations and solving old problems, such as sustainable food production for all, with new ways of thinking, Yalda decided to join Synomics to help implement the unique technology and change the game in the agriculture genomics sector.
Having lived and studied in multiple countries and continents, she is not only proud of her professional and personal growth, but also grateful for all the opportunities she has had to use science to put better food on people’s tables.
Yalda enjoys exploring the beautiful outdoors of Wisconsin either on foot, by bike or by kayak.