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Life at Nautilus

Interview with Ken Kuhn – Nautilus VP of Reagent and Platform Development

Tyler Ford

Tyler Ford

March 23, 2023

Image featuring a headshot of Nautilus Vice President of Reagent & Platform Development, Kenneth Kuhn, as well as the following quote from Ken, "The most gratifying part of product development is making the impossible practical."

Ken Kuhn, Nautilus Vice President of Reagent & Platform Development, joined the Nautilus team to spearhead the process of making the Nautilus Proteome Analysis Platform ready for customers. His job is to ensure the platform works in an efficient, stable, and consistent way that is highly approachable to users. Thankfully, Ken is ideally suited for this role.

Since he began his science career as an undergraduate, Ken has always had a knack for optimization. He has consistently succeeded in technology development projects in graduate school as well as the life sciences industry. He loves to be at the forefront of making promising technologies practically useful.

We are incredibly grateful to have Ken on the team and, in this post, we learn more about Ken and why he thinks the Nautilus Platform is primed for development.

How did you get your start in biology and why have you turned your focus to proteomics?

I have had a passion for science since high school, but I fell in love with biology once I learned that all life on Earth has the same molecular and biochemical underpinnings in DNA, RNA, and proteins. Furthermore, biology is particularly engaging because it is a “personal science” in the sense that studying it can ultimately result in cures for diseases that affect those most dear to us in a very tangible way.

Although much of my career has focused on genomics, I am excited to turn to proteomics as I firmly believe in the potential to illuminate the hidden depths of biological processes. In my view, proteomics and the Nautilus Proteome Analysis Platform in particular, have the potential to positively impact not just basic scientific researchers, but millions of people worldwide by enabling fundamental advances in drug development, biomarker discovery, and more. 

Why did you join the Nautilus team?   

I started working at Illumina in the early 2000s, and it was invigorating. The company had just over 100 employees, amazing leadership, was well capitalized, and the atmosphere was electric. We were at the forefront of game-changing innovation and believed in the vision to revolutionize DNA sequencing. It was really hard, but we intuitively knew our technology could truly change the world and everyone was dedicated to the mission.

I got a similar feeling of exhilaration when I first met folks at Nautilus. It was obvious Parag and Sujal were growing a strong, talented and dedicated team. And, when I got to look under the hood at the Nautilus platform, it was clear that the team was solving fundamental challenges in single-molecule protein detection and developing solutions that could scale with the complexity of the proteome. Now, I’m fired up to commercialize our technology and enable scientists around the world.

Speaking of product development, why do you think Nautilus’ technology is well-poised for development and what motivates you about the product development process? 

Since the very start of my career in biotech, I have had an innate desire to optimize processes and to create systems that are both efficient and robust. While an undergrad, I worked at GSK making vectors designed to drive higher protein expression. As a graduate student, I enjoyed taking on both discovery and application-focused projects, but my application-oriented projects, particularly those focused on nascent microarray technologies, thrived and were ultimately successful.

Optimizing technology for an applied purpose, the core of product development, has always excited me, and the most gratifying part of product development is making the impossible practical. As I’ve grown in my career, I’ve formalized a set of principles to help inform when a technology is ready for development. While I don’t want to give away too much of the secret sauce, Nautilus’ technology satisfies many of these principles. The subsystems are ready for integration, optimization and exponential scaling, there’s a clear market need for the technology, and no one else has solved the outstanding problems in the field. We have a unique combination of compelling technology architecture, engaging cross-functional teamwork, dynamic visionary leadership, and are well-positioned to develop and release a commercially viable approach to transform the industry. 

What are you most excited about for Nautilus’ future? 

I’ve always been a long-term thinker and planner, which is a great asset being in the product development space. As such, I’ll be working with my team to resolve issues and ensure all components sync in a way that can be consistently and reliably delivered to customers. I’m thrilled to build a product with so much potential to impact millions of lives. New insights into basic research, drug development, precision medicine, and more are imminent once we get an enabling proteomics platform into the hands of scientists and clinicians. 

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