Behind the Mask

The COVID-19 frontline heroes

June 2020

Marc Juul

LIMS Developer
Oakland, CA
I joined renegade.bio to do work that is important and relevant, and I’ve been happily surprised at how much we have accomplished in such a short time-frame—this is a very competent team that I trust!
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Diversity is a key strength of the renegade.bio team, not only in experience and skills but also culturally, with more than 50% of employees hailing from Brazil, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and the Ukraine. Marc Juul, our Lead LIMS Developer, is from Denmark and brings with him a deep knowledge and expertise of biotech automation.

A self-described hacker at large, Marc is one of the forces behind renegade.bio’s ability to rapidly scale testing and automate a faster rt-PCR assay process, delivering significantly faster testing throughput in half the time.  When the team was asked to move to NYC to provide much needed SARS-CoV-2 testing, Marc pulled all-nighters to ensure the laboratory process and code was intact, as the team built out an automated process for processing and tracking the patient samples.  Marc worked closely with Tom Seago, CIO, to implement a robust system that could manage patient samples from external field collection sites to in lab processing.

Marc was born in the south of Denmark and graduated from the Denmark Technological University with a BSc in IT Engineering and an MSc in Biotech Engineering. After some time in IT, he discovered he had a fascination with DNA and synthetic biology and co-founded the first biohacker space in Denmark. “I had heard Drew Endy speak at a conference in Germany and it spurred me to investigate the opportunities in synthetic biology, looking at programming and hacking DNA in a more predictable way.” Drew is well known in the synthetic biology community, having held positions at MIT and worked with Tom Knight, prior to joining the faculty at Stanford and forming the BioBricks Foundation.

Due to complicated restrictions and barriers for synthetic biology research back in Denmark, Marc made the move to Oakland and completed his thesis at BIOFAB housed at JBEI, (Joint Bio Energy Institute) a newly formed research institute operated by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. There he became more interested in citizen science and open source access for DNA and code. Since then, he has built several organizations responsible for sharing and democratizing access to sequence and code for the advancement of science.

Marc’s expertise in building bioinformatics solutions, LIMS systems, and integrating technology was a natural fit when renegade.bio needed to scale rapidly. He joined the team in late-March as we prepared to scale testing in NYC.

“I think my background in technology and automation was key in helping build the system fast, but also knowing the biology was essential in being able to rapidly deploy in New York. Luckily the robotics were easy to work with, they take care of themselves code-wise. We designed these systems using fault-tolerant peer-to-peer technology which allows the lab to continue operating in the event of internet outages or hardware failures.”

Marc notes, “we could replicate the process in any situation where connectivity to the net is an issue.  This has only been possible in the past 5 years thanks to access to libraries of open source software.”

As renegade.bio mobilizes and expands community testing Marc and the team are continuing to optimize the process to increase access to faster quality tests, so we can all get back to work and school sooner.

For more info on Open Source, decentralized software, check out https://www.digital-democracy.org/mapeo/ and https://dat.foundation/ projects.

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