Meet BioBuilder Stephen Payne

I know somebody once gave me the advice that I should [be] expert in a very small specialization … And I've kind of completely ignored that advice. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but … looking around, you know, it seems like a lot of people are looking for people that can integrate skills across things."

Stephen Payne

Dr. Stephen Payne is CEO and President of Maku Technologies, a synbio startup in North Carolina

If you’ve been using BioBuilder curriculum, you are likely familiar with the 2006 MIT iGEM project that made bacteria smell like bananas. In a conversation recorded on April 8th, 2021, we caught up with iGEM team member, Stephen Payne, now Dr. Stephen Payne. He talked about his path to Duke for his PhD and back to MIT for a post-doc, and then his shift to industry and now running his own startup company, Maku Technologies that uses synthetic biology to produce rare cannabinoids.  

His research over the years has deployed mathematical models, DNA and RNA engineering, cell-free technologies and metabolic engineering – a true example of an integrated STEM professional. He talks about how his growing family and his growing business have him excited for what the future has in store.