Sebastien Weyn’s career as a programmer began when his father — “who has always been a huge nerd,” Weyn said — brought home a computer.
“It basically was a box with a keyboard and a small LCD screen — like a graphing calculator,” he recalled.
“I think I’ve had a lot of opportunities growing up to work with some great people. That’s something I really want to pass on.”
At first, Weyn copied the example programs in the device’s manual. When he found the limits of the manual’s instruction booklet, he began designing his own. One of his first was a Mastermind-like program, where the player had to guess what sequence of colors the computer had set.
The computer Weyn uses for his work at Stoke Therapeutics are, of course, much more powerful. As a bioinformatician, Weyn is analyzing data on the various genetic sequences that can ultimately create the same protein — with an eye on building drugs that can target these proteins.
Proteins are built by decoding instructions written in RNA. These instructions also require some assembly; usually, the cell needs to cut out parts of the RNA to make the final transcript before the protein is built.
Different splicing patterns may seem like relatively minor changes — but differences in those patterns may affect how a protein behaves, or even whether a cell will keep it around or destroy it.
As part of his PhD research, Weyn analyzed how diseases could be linked to these different splicing variations — and his current employer, Stoke Therapeutics, is hoping to take that connection one step further by developing drugs that can manipulate splicing. Weyn interviewed at Stoke after meeting one of the company’s co-founders.
Weyn now supervises a few college students who participate in the company’s co-op program. Eventually, he said, he’d like to find even more ways to work with the next generation of scientists.
“I think I’ve had a lot of opportunities growing up to work with some great people,” he said. “That’s something I really want to pass on.”
— Kate Sheridan