A Morning at Repositive

20 Jun 2018

I had the pleasure of visiting Repositive's office in Cambridge last month + was generously given the opportunity to speak to several key people on the team.


Repositive have created a user-friendly platform for accessing human genomic data. They provide easy access to over a million datasets from over 50 data sources, as well as providing features to enable the user to discuss + share the data. You can use their platform for free - check it out here.


The following is a summary of what I learnt on the day.


Adrian Alexa, Co-Founder + CTO

On life before Repositive

Worked on phylogenetics + data science under the supervision of Anthony Cox at Illumina. The difference between being a scientist + managing them/developers is that you don't get a lot of opportunities to be in the zone + work on something technical like you used to. You have to do what is necessary when it is necessary. There may come a point where you miss being a scientist but is be aware that goals change over time: natural progression.

On people management

Developing emotional intelligence is crucial + addressing problems soon after they arise, as opposed to allowing emotions to build up, is most sensible. You have to able to adapt to cultural norms; the work culture in the UK or even in Cambridge is different to other cities + countries. Observe who works well together + create the right teams. Salary is not a motivating factor, recognition is. 


"No matter how much you try to align your team, they will not see the world through your eyes."


This is why dialogue is so important: clear communication + actively listening in order to ensure joint design, where contribution = ownership. You never want to give someone a hard answer or enforce a plan, you should guide + coach them to a solution, which is optimal for both parties.

On products + research

An easy-to-use tool based on a simple method is likely to be more used than an elegant solution that is not easily accessible.


Jack Wilson, HR Co-ordinator

On life before Repositive

Graduated with a degree in cell biology; didn't want to stay in the wet lab but wanted to remain close to science + help from a higher level. Loves meeting + talking to people, learning new things + having new experiences; recruitment seemed the perfect fit + a degree is enough to recruit the right people (without needing to have the exact skills of those you are trying to recruit).

On diversity + the work environment

Offer support when people need it, no matter what. In order to get the best out of people (they only work hard when they want to), you have to give people the opportunity to speak; be themselves; come out of their shells; be relaxed (but still work hard); show who they are; work flexible hours and not pin them down. The culture at Repositive is good; if you mess up it is not the end of the world as long as you learn from it. Culture compensates for salary compared to large corporate company.


"The day you can stop thinking about demographics is the day you have won."


Repositive have quite a lot of women applying + they believe in equal opportunities; they are looking to find women-only job boards to post on. 

On the recruitment process

​The process consists of:

  • informal chat over coffee

  • coding challenge/technical question

  • on-site visit (a day in the life of a Repositive employee)

  • personal presentation to the whole team 

  • meet one-on-one with key people in the team

Sam Shelton, Business Development Associate

On life before Repositive

Did not appreciate the admin aspect of academia + felt like a difference can be made quicker in business. Enjoyed working in a tech startup between PhD + post-doc; it's more intense, busier + there is more interaction with people.

On current role

Working on connecting pharmaceutical companies with patient-derived xenograft (PDX) vendors for testing cancer drugs. Selecting models is important + there is a lot of data involved. Using Repositive's platform, pharmaceutical companies can query their repository to find models + their vendors. Read more about this here. Role entails building relationships with vendors to get them to sign on + provide their data, as well as working with lawyers; deciding the price of products + marketing.

On career journeys

Get experience! Just try, its not the end of the world if you change your mind. Science will be missed but there was a reason to leave + you can never have it all! Your career will always progress in one way or another.


Richard Shaw, Senior Bioinformatics Scientist

On life before Repositive

Worked at Illumina for nine years on: the first cancer sequencing project; structural variant calling (see publication here) + repeat expansion. Noticed that the genomics industry changed drastically over the years.

On current role

At Repositive, there are web developers + data scientists but only one bioinformatician. Currently working with  (PDX) data which is difficult to work with due to commerical secrecy + privacy (because it is sensitive data). Current focus is developing molecular search feature to find specific variants.

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