To Grow

Faster and Healthier


Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century

As the world's population reaches 9.7 billion in the year 2050, global crop production will need to double to meet the projected demands for food, feed, fiber, and fuel. AFINGEN® develops novel biotechnology platforms for crops to grow faster and healthier and meet the natural resource demand in new sustainable manners.







Ai Oikawa, Ph.D.


Ai Oikawa, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO/CSO of AFINGEN® Astalake Biosystems, Inc. and has been developing new plant biotechnology platforms for sustainable food, feed, fiber, and fuel production. Her research has been awarded by Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to improve global food security and environmental sustainability. After receiving a Ph.D. in Agricultural Bioprocess Engineering, she spent a year at Yale University as a visiting scholar for Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and completed postdoctoral training at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) for Biochemistry and Computational System Biology. She also joined the Harvard Business School Agribusiness Executive Program and the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) School of Law, Intellectual Property & Technology Transfer Education Program, for Technology Integration and Commercialization.

Carolyn Fritz, M.B.A

Biotech-Business Consultant

Carolyn Fritz, M.B.A. 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 places particular emphasis on strategy and commercialization plans to penetrate the markets and build the company.

Kenneth Davenport, Ph.D.

AgTech-Strategy Consultant

Kenneth Davenport, Ph.D. 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.


Keith Newhouse, Ph.D.

Keith Newhouse Ph.D. is a strategic-business veteran in Ag-biotech, who was most recently Director of Business Development with the Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN business unit and had been a 16-year employee of Land O’Lakes. His commercial experience over the past 35 years has included the development and launch of new seed and biotech products and technologies for a number of agriculture companies, including Monsanto, BASF, Syngenta, and Bayer. Since retirement from Land O’Lakes, he has been engaged in business consulting projects related to agricultural sustainability. Previous activities for the Land O'Lakes included: leading strategic planning for Land O’Lakes’s Seed business; oversight of the sunflower, canola and sugar beets programs; leadership in building a consolidated and full-scope forages program; start-up and integration of a Mexico tropical corn breeding program, and the international testing and licensing of forages and tropical corn. Previous sustainability solution roles for Land O’Lakes included topic area leadership for WinField® United business, and also led the overall Land O’Lakes corporate sustainability program for one year. He has a Ph.D. in genetics and plant breeding from Iowa State University.

Dave Jessen, Ph.D.

Dave Jessen Ph.D. is principal of Jessen West LLC, a consulting service focused on agricultural seed, trait and technology research, and product development. He 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, he has supplied consulting services to several leading corporations, both large multi-nationals as well as emerging start-up companies. From 2013-2015, he 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, he 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.

Bill Shelander, M.B.A.

Bill Shelander, M.B.A. is Co-Director of Cleantech to Market program at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), Haas School of Business, and had been the Business Development expert for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), 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.

Dominique Loque Ph.D.

Dominique Loque Ph.D. is a research group leader of disease control at Bayer Crop Science and former director of Cell wall Engineering group at DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. at Hohenheim University, Germany, and worked on the physiological and molecular characterization of ammonium transporter in plants. He moved to the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University to work on post-translational regulation of trimeric ammonium transporter complexes and its role in ammonium update. In 2008, he joined the Joint BioEnergy Institute at Lawrence Berkeley National laboratory to establish his research group on plant cell wall engineering and plant synthetic biology. His primary interests are discoveries and innovations.


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