Our Expert Team

Xelect has a talented team of scientific staff, with strong expertise in molecular biology, bio-informatics and aquaculture. We also have experienced financial, admin and business development personnel

Prof. Ian A. Johnston


Ian is internationally recognised as one of the world’s leading fish physiologists. He has published more than 350 research papers during his academic career and has a long history of working with the aquaculture industry. Before becoming full-time CEO of Xelect he was Chandos Professor and Director of the Scottish Oceans Institute at the University of St Andrews (1997-2016), member of the Natural Research Council of the UK (1995-2000) and President of the Society for Experimental Biology, one of Europe’s leading learned societies and publishing companies (2007-9).

Chris Wallard


Chris has held a range of senior marketing and creative roles, ranging from Head of Brand at a FTSE 100 company  to Head of Creative in a leading fintech company.  He brings diverse and extensive experience in digital, comms, brand, and business development. He has a Masters degree in English Language and Literature from the University of St Andrews. At Xelect, Chris is responsible for our marketing, business development  and operations.

Dr Rachael Wilbourn


Rachael has over 10 years’ experience in a range of molecular biology techniques such as DNA/RNA extraction, PCR/qPCR, genotyping and NGS, and has a strong background in population genetics. At Xelect she is an integral part of the team ensuring smooth and efficient lab processing whilst keeping high quality standards throughout. She is also actively involved in routine genetic services and data analysis on client projects. Rachael has a PhD in Evolution & Behaviour from the University of Lethbridge in Canada. Rachael recently won Hatchery International’s ‘Top 10 Under 40 Award’ for aquaculture professionals.

Dr José Mota-Velasco


José has more than 10 years experience working for major aquaculture genetics firms. During this time, he has held several managerial positions involving genetics, genomics and management of breeding programmes for marine and freshwater species. At Xelect, José is delivering comprenhensive, specialist support to our customers breeding programmes. He obtained an MSc and PhD in genetics in Aquaculture from the University of Stirling.

Dr Marie Smedley


Marie has a PhD in Atlantic salmon biology from the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling’s Reproduction and Genetics Group. Marie has commercial experience working with producers such as MOWI and Biomar and has a broad range of computer analytical and fish husbandry skills. At Xelect Marie ensures that our breeding management customers around the world are met with professional support and advice through close liaison.

Dr Mark Looseley


Mark gained his first degree in Evolutionary Biology at St Andrews University, before receiving an MSc in Quantitive Genetics from the University of Edinburgh. He returned to St Andrews for his PhD in Evolutionary Genomics.

He joined the James Hutton Institute, with responsibility for identifying genetic variation in barley, including disease resistance and premium quality traits.

Dave Cooper


Dave qualified as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young and has spent most of his career in commercial roles in the UK. He was Finance Director of AIM listed Dawson International plc, an international textiles group, and has operated his own consultancy business providing financial resource to companies in a variety of sectors. He is currently a Non-Executive Director of Leeds Group plc and chairs their audit committee.

Dr Carlos Diaz Gil


Carlos has a multidisciplinary Marine Sciences degree and a M.Sc. in Aquaculture and Fisheries from the University of Cádiz. He also holds a Ph.D. in Marine Ecology from the University of the Balearic Islands.

Carlos provides expert breeding programme support to our customers worldwide.

Dr Lidia de los Ríos Pérez


Lidia has a background in Veterinary Medicine and Animal Husbandry, with an M.Sc in Animal Breeding and Genetics from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Due to her combination of genetics and aquaculture experience, Lidia will be working with our customers to design, manage and optimise their breeding programmes.

Dr Valeria Macchia


Valeria has a BSc in Marine and Freshwater Biology from Edinburgh Napier University and has recently completed a PhD in disease resistance in salmonids to Flavobacterium psychrophilum from the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling’s Production Research Group. She also has a post-doctorate experience at the University of West Scotland (WellFish Diagnostics Laboratory) in the early development of immunological biomarkers from the main Atlantic salmon diseases to develop a commercially available high throughput blood testing platform

Valeria will be working with our customers to design, manage and optimise their breeding programmes.

Dr Stelios Kyriakidis


Stelios has a PhD in bioinformatics from the University of Dundee and “The James Hutton” institute, with expertise in next-generation sequencing data analysis, variant detection in relation to domestication, evolution and their use for the improvement of breeding programmes. At Xelect, Stelios is responsible for the analysis of NGS data, developing computational tools and building/managing databases holding vast amount of information coming from our customers and the associated data analysis.

Dr Max Coulter


Max has a BSc in Molecular Biology from the University of Exeter and a PhD from James Hutton Institute and University of Dundee in quantitative and molecular genetics. He also has 3 years of post-doctorate experience developing software pipelines (for improved transcriptomics analysis and pan-genomics).

At Xelect he develops our bioinformatics processes and in-house genetics software, as well as contributing to our ongoing R&D programme.

Dr Paolo Ruggeri


Paolo has a PhD in population genetics and strong academic background in marine genomics and molecular biology. He has broad experience in DNA preparation, genotyping and modern sequencing techniques, as well as the analysis of genetic data.

As well as genotyping, Paolo will assist the development of our breeding programmes and plays a central role in our genetic marker discovery and R&D.

Dr Pauline MacLeod


Pauline has a strong and diverse background in Molecular Biology. She recently left a three year Post-Doctoral position at the University of St Andrews.

She has a PhD in Molecular Biology and Genetics from the James Hutton Institute and the University of Dundee. Before that, she graduated from a M. Sc in Plant Biology and Environment at the University of Montpellier, France and a B. Sc in Cellular Biology and Physiology at the University of Lille, France.

Aaren Dannoch


Aaren has 10 years experience working in UKAS accredited NHS diagnostic laboratories working within clinical genetics laboratories with experience of Next Generation Sequencing, Sanger sequencing and various DNA/RNA extraction techniques. She has a BSc (Hons) degree in Marine Biology from the University of Stirling.

Jeroen ven der Kaay


Jeroen has 24 years experience in life-sciences research, and has a strong background in molecular biology, including DNA / RNA preparation, PCR, SNP discovery and genotyping.

Anne Shaw


Anne held several PA and administrative positions in South Africa before returning home to Scotland.

Dr Christopher Hollenbeck


Chris has a strong background in population genetics and bioinformatics. He specialises in applying genomics to aquaculture breeding programmes. He obtained a Ph.D. in Genetics from Texas A&M University, and was a post-doctoral researcher at St Andrews University.

Dionisio Ramos


Dionisio is an experienced professional of the Chilean salmon farming industry and a former manager at Landcatch. He is our sales representative based in Puerto Montt, Chile.