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

CEO & CO-FOUNDER

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).

Dr Tom Ashton

OPERATIONS DIRECTOR & CO-FOUNDER

Tom has a PhD from University of St Andrews, with a thesis entitled ‘The genetic basis of flesh quality traits in farmed Atlantic salmon’.

Tom is co-inventor of the Xelect genetic markers and of the tensile method of texture analysis. He has broad experience in marine biology, aquaculture and molecular biology.

Dr Rachael Wilbourn

HEAD OF LABORATORY

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

SENIOR BREEDING PROGRAMME MANAGER

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

SENIOR BREEDING PROGRAMME MANAGER

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 Carlos Diaz Gil

BREEDING PROGRAMME MANAGER

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.

Lidia de los Ríos Pérez

BREEDING PROGRAMME MANAGER

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 Mark Looseley

SENIOR GENETICIST

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.

Dr Stelios Kyriakidis

BIOINFORMATICIAN

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

BIOINFORMATICIAN / GENETICIST

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 Christopher Hollenbeck

GENOMICS CONSULTANT

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.

Dr Akis Varypatakis

SCIENTIFIC OFFICER

Akis holds a PhD in crop genetics from The James Hutton Institute and University of St Andrews. He has expertise in genomic analysis using next-generation sequencing techniques, and the analysis of genetic data.

At Xelect he brings his experience to our lab team, mainly involved with developing assays and preparing libraries for amplicon sequencing.

Dr Paolo Ruggeri

SCIENTIFIC OFFICER

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

Scientific Officer

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.

Dave Cooper

FINANCE MANAGER

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.

Chris Wallard

CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER

Chris has held a range of senior marketing and creative roles, ranging from Head of Brand at Prudential to Head of Creative at fintech company Nutmeg.  He brings diverse and extensive experience in digital, comms, brand, social media and creative management. He has a Masters degree in English Language and Literature from the University of St Andrews. At Xelect, Chris is responsible for our marketing, media strategy, communications  and brand.

Anne Shaw

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

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

Jeroen ven der Kaay

LABORATORY TECHNICIAN

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.

Dionisio Ramos

SALES DEVELOPMENT MANAGER (CHILE)

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.