Toward Sustainable Agricultural systems in the 21st Century
Afingen inc was established in 2014 as a molecular biology startup to improve useful traits in eukaryotic organisms.
David Jessen, Ph.D.
David Jessen, Ph.D. (Afingen Ag-technologies consultant) has over 30 years of experience spearheading agricultural biotechnology, plant breeding and product development, with numerous varieties, hybrids, and transgenic events successfully commercialized. He has also spent considerable time and effort in the application and integration of genomic technologies, statistical genetics and marker trait associations to plant breeding programs. Since 2013, David has supplied consulting services to several leading corporations, both large multi-nationals as well as emerging start-up companies. From 2013-2015, David also served the role of Chief Technology Officer of BioN2, Inc., an entity in the agricultural technology sector focused on nitrogen utilization in maize. Prior to 2013, David was CTO of Chromatin, who developed and licensed its mini-chromosome gene stacking technology to four of the big six Ag Seed/Chemical companies. Previously to Chromatin, David was with Syngenta, where he served as the Head of Traits & Technology for Corn and Soy, and held several strategic leadership roles within the company, including Global Head, Field Crops R&D, and Vice President of Research and Development at Novartis Seeds. Dr. Jessen also directed and managed trait and breeding programs at Pioneer Hi-Bred for 12 years. As part of the Afingen team, he advises research, product development, and commercialization plan for a series of crops.
Carolyn Fritz, M.B.A
Carolyn Fritz, M.B.A (AFINGEN Ag-Business Consultant) has over twenty years of experience in successfully building industrial biotechnology businesses. From 2004-2014, she built Allylix from a startup, raising $34 million in venture financing, creating a pipeline of products for the flavor & fragrance and insect control markets, establishing key strategic partnerships, and scaling up and commercializing the first two products, to the successful sale of the company to a European biotechnology company, Evolva, in 2014. From 1999 to 2004, at Dow Chemical, she built a renewable chemical business and a biopharmaceutical contract manufacturing business. From 1993 to 1999, at Cargill, she built a plant biotechnology business focused on developing new food ingredients and industrial products from canola oil. As part of the Afingen team, she advises strategy and commercialization plans to penetrate the markets and build the company.
Kenneth Davenport, Ph.D.
Kenneth Davenport, Ph.D. (AFINGEN Ag-Business Consultant) is an agricultural industry veteran, having served in leadership and executive capacities as Vice President of Strategy & CTO of Chromatin, Inc., Director of New Business Ventures with Bayer CropScience, GmbH, and CEO of ArborGen, LLC. Ken has held numerous leadership and executive roles, focused on strategy and its implementation at the leading edge of novel technology and unique commercial opportunities ranging from chemistry and biotechnology to biopharma and agricultural (e.g., cotton, forestry, specialty crops) industries. Prior to entry into the ag biotech, seed and related industries, he served as Director of Central Research for Hoechst Celanese. As part of the Afingen team, he places particular emphasis on Afingen’s product development; regulatory, intellectual property and out-licensing strategies; and approaches to third-party leaders in the ag biotech, planting seed, and related industries.
Ai Oikawa, Ph.D.
Ai Oikawa, Ph.D. (AFINGEN co-founder) leads Afingen R&D team since Afingen’s inception in 2014. She earned her Ph.D in bioprocessing engineering and has more than 15 years of experience in genetics and molecular biology. She is an expert on bioinformatics experiments related to regulatory gene networks, transcription factors, and evolutionarily conserved promoter cis-elements across organisms. Her research has been awarded by Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs from U.S. DOE and USDA, Japanese Society of Plant Physiologists (JSPP), Yamada Science Foundation (YSF), and Life Science Foundation. While being Afingen’s R&D team leader, she has been an affiliate scientist and industry advisor committee member at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute. Her R&D team is responsible for DNA assembly, molecular biology, phenotype and metabolite analysis to expand the Afingen’s fast-growth technology to commercially competitive crops.
Bill Shelander, M.B.A.
Bill Shelander, M.B.A. (AFINGEN co-founder) is Co-Director of Cleantech to Market program at University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business, and had been the Business Development expert for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a position aimed at enhancing the entrepreneurial awareness within the Lab’s research community with an emphasis on helping to create startups. He has over 20 years of experience managing nearly $180 million in venture funds and returned over $600 million. He has invested in and helped to start dozens of high technology companies. He has seen both investment failures and successes with a distinguished track record as an officer or director of companies acquired or listed on NASDAQ. He has a BS in Systems Engineering with a minor in physics, an MS in Chemical Engineering, and an MBA from Stanford.
Prof. Henrik Scheller, Ph.D.
Prof. Henrik Scheller, Ph.D. (AFINGEN co-founder) is Vice President of the Feedstocks Division at the Joint BioEnergy Institute and one of the AFINGEN's technology inventors. He has been leading different research groups working on understanding cell wall biosynthesis mechanism and genetic engineering for tissue-specific accumulation of targeted cell wall compounds. He has worked in the field of plant cell walls for more than two decades, and his reputation in plant molecular biology and biochemistry is internationally recognized in the field. He is also an adjunct professor at UC Berkeley.
Miguel Vega-Sanchez, Ph.D.
Miguel Vega-Sanchez, Ph.D. (AFINGEN co-founder) is a genome-editing expert at the Monsanto. He received his PhD in plant molecular biology and biotechnology and had served as depuy director at grass genetics group at JBEI, and has expertise is plant-pathogen interactions, plant defense, and cell wall biosynthesis in several grass species. His work and expertise has been a key contribution as advisor to AFINGEN’s DOE SBIR project, which is transferring the AFINGEN's technology into the biofuel crop, switchgrass.
Dominique Loque Ph.D.
Dominique Loque Ph.D. (AFINGEN co-founder) is Deputy Vice President of the Feedstocks Division at the Joint BioEnergy Institute and one of the AFINGEN's technology inventors. He has experience working with yeast and plants for more than a decade. For the past 10 years, he has been working on 1) understanding the function of membrane transporters in yeast and plants and 2) genetic engineering of transcriptional networks to increase beneficial trait in eukaryotic organisms. His current research focus is developing novel dominant approaches to optimize bioenergy traits such as cell wall recalcitrance and in planta chemical production. He is also an adjunct professor at UC Berkeley.