John Dombrosky Chief Executive Officer
John has over 25 years of business building experience, including 13 years of experience within the agricultural technology sector. Based on the idea that our common human dignity depends upon daily access to nutritious food, John’s professional focus is to unlock, develop, and bring to market high-impact agricultural technologies.
Prior to joining Oerth Bio, John served as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AgTech Accelerator. Built with a syndicate of leading venture and industry strategic capital, the AgTech Accelerator team identified and launched ag-tech startups designed to address major food system gaps.
Prior to joining AgTech Accelerator, John served in multiple executive roles at Syngenta, where his responsibilities spanned licensing, M&A, strategic planning, and general management across seeds and crop protection businesses. In addition to experience in the agriculture sector, John held M&A, strategy, business development, FP&A and roles at Thomson Reuters; and began his career in corporate planning and operational analysis at Northwest Airlines.
John earned a Bachelor of Arts in Financial Management from the University of St. Thomas and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.
Laura Westby Chief Legal & Operations Officer
Paul Bernasconi Chief Scientific Officer
Dr. Paul Bernasconi is an accomplished science leader with more than 25 years of R&D leadership experience across a wide range of biotech and agtech companies. He is the owner of Bernasconi Consulting, Inc, guiding agribusiness organizations toward their growth aspirations, from short-term, high-risk projects to multi-year, multimillion-dollar programs. He is Chief Scientific Officer at Oerth Bio, accelerating R&D as it pioneers first-in-the-world protein degrader science for ag, and he is fractional COO of SOLASTA Bio, a spin-out of the University of Glasgow.
Dr. Bernasconi is the former Global Function Head of Molecular Biology at BASF Biosciences in Research Triangle Park, where he led an international department of 120 scientists responsible for all molecular biology and gene editing activities. He is also former director of BASF Crop Protection, leading insecticide biology and molecular biology. In this role he was part of the team that developed Versys, an insecticide with a novel mode of action introduced to the market in 2018. He is former Director of Biochemistry at Syngenta, responsible for high throughput screening programs in herbicide, insecticide and fungicide discovery. While at Syngenta, he contributed to the commercialization of two herbicides and initiated the research on Dicamba tolerant soybean. Dr. Bernasconi also served as Director of Operations at start-up Amphora Pharmaceuticals.
He holds more than a dozen patents in insect control, agrochemicals, microbiome manipulation and genome editing.
Apostolos Klontzaris SVP of Corporate Development and Business Development
Sam Gattis Vice President, Research & Development
Jason Speake, Ph.D. VP, Chemistry
Jason serves as our VP of Chemistry. He brings an impressive track record of experience in the biotechnology sector, advancing innovative products through preclinical and clinical development. Prior to joining the team at Oerth Bio, Dr. Speake was Senior Manager of Discovery Services at Cambrex, where he was responsible for internal innovation investment, drug discovery and development leadership, and client interactions. Before Cambrex he held senior roles at the likes of Avista Pharma, Scynexis, Targacept, and GlaxoSmithKline. Dr. Speake received his B.S. in Chemistry at Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and his Ph.D. in Chemistry at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, and is an author of over 50 patents and publications.
Denis Fourches Senior Director, Data Science and Modeling
Kelly Broccio Senior Director, Targeted Protein Degradation
Paul Ingram Director, Product Performance
Stephanie Voss Director, Biochemistry & Biophysics
Jessie Potterton Head, Human Resources
Jeff Hurst Controller
Laura Schuchart Senior Director, Communications
Ed Anderson Cell Biology Scientist
Isabel Benson Associate Scientist
Steve Bremmer Senior Scientist, Targeted Protein Degradation
John Catalano Senior Medicinal Chemist
Fadil Dahhani Scientist
Hamilton Dickson Senior Scientist, Synthetic Chemistry
Victoria Dixon Associate Scientist
Baohong Guo Biostatistician
Chris Hahne Scientist
Bob Hunter Senior Research Scientist, Chemistry
Amanda Jansch Associate Scientist, Biochemistry & Biophysics
Sviatoslav Kendall Bioinformatician
Chris Ladner Senior Director, External Innovation
Leanne Lemyre HR Specialist
Melina Lillich Scientist
Kristin Mayo Laboratory Manager
John Miller Senior Research Scientist, Chemistry
Gina Morgan Scientist, Biochemistry & Biophysics
Suresh Nagarajan Senior Scientist, Biochemistry & Biophysics
Ola Noras Associate Scientist, Targeted Protein Degradation
Daniel Ouedraogo Associate Scientist, Biochemistry
Joe Pilotte Scientist, Biochemistry & Biophysics
Karunakar Pothula Scientist, Molecular Modeling
Seth Quackenbush Office Manager
Daniel Saltzberg Senior Computational Biophysicist
Bijal Shah Accounting Manager
Ben Shi Senior Scientist
Mikayla Stoner Associate Scientist, Biochemistry & Biophysics
Eric Sullivan Scientist, Biochemistry & Biophysics
Andrei Turcanu Associate Scientist
Charlotte Van Remortel Director, Business Analytics
Brian Watts Scientist, Biochemistry & Biophysics
Song Zhang Senior Scientist
John is our Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Prior to Oerth Bio™, John was CEO of AgTech Accelerator. There John built by a consortium of leading venture and industry strategic capital, the AgTech Accelerator team formed, launched, and operated impactful agtech startups. Prior to joining AgTech Accelerator, John served in multiple executive roles at Syngenta, spanning licensing, M&A, strategic planning, and general management across seeds and crop protection businesses. In addition to experience in the agriculture sector, John worked at Thomson Reuters and Northwest Airlines in operations, corporate development, M&A, and strategy roles. John earned a Bachelor of Arts in Financial Management from the University of St. Thomas and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.
Mr. Cassidy is the Chief Financial Officer of Arvinas. He has over 20 years of experience in the life sciences industry, including serving as Chief Financial Officer of Axerion Therapeutics, a preclinical biotechnology company developing therapies for neurological diseases and injuries; Chief Financial Officer of CuraGen Corporation (NASDAQ: CRGN), a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company; and Director and Controller of 454 Life Sciences Corporation, a life sciences company that developed and commercialized next generation DNA sequencing instruments and reagents.
Earlier in his career, Mr. Cassidy served at Deloitte, one of the big four public accounting firms with a broad base of clients in the healthcare space. Mr. Cassidy is also a member of the board for Friends of Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, a nonprofit organization that helps improve the health and well-being of pediatric patients and their families.
Mr. Cassidy holds an M.B.A. and B.S. from the University of Connecticut and is a Certified Public Accountant in the State of Connecticut.
Jürgen Eckhardt is SVP and Global Head of Leaps by Bayer, the impact investment unit of Bayer. The mission of Leaps is to invest in breakthrough technologies and disruptive business models in the areas of healthcare and agriculture. Jürgen has been a venture investor since 2002 and currently serves on the board of Joyn Bio, Dewpoint, Century, Khloris, Oerth Bio, Immunitas, eGenesis, and others. Previously, Jürgen was a management consultant and Associate Partner with McKinsey & Co. and a member of McKinsey’s Healthcare Leadership Team. He began his career as a radiologist at the University Hospital of Basel, Switzerland. Jürgen received his M.D. from the University of Basel and his MBA from INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France.
John G. Houston
Dr. Houston is President and Chief Executive Officer of Arvinas. Previously, he was the SVP of Specialty Discovery at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS). He spent more than 18 years at BMS in roles of increasing responsibility and had accountability for all Discovery Biology disease teams as well as various Discovery technology departments. He was also the site head of the BMS Connecticut facility. Dr. Houston was a member of the BMS R&D Executive Leadership team and chaired the Target Portfolio Committee which had governance oversight in the discovery space. With his teams and research colleagues, he progressed over 200 compounds into early development, several of which advanced into late stage clinical trials, and toward commercialization.
He was also the principal architect and driver of the ‘Leveraging Technology’ initiative at BMS which oversaw the design and implementation of an industry-leading integrated lead discovery and optimization process. This initiative created revolutionary changes in the discovery process at BMS with significant improvements in capacity, speed and cost control resulting in marked increases in research productivity and success rates.
Dr. Houston has over 30+ years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Prior to joining Bristol-Myers Squibb, he worked at Glaxo Welcome Research and Development in the UK, where he served as head of the Lead Discovery Unit.
Dr. Houston obtained his B.Sc degree in Medical Microbiology from Glasgow University and obtained his Ph.D. with Professor Brian Catley in Microbial Biochemistry from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. He also completed his post-doctoral studies on an MRC grant with Professor Julia Douglas at Glasgow University.
Thong Q. Le currently serves as Senior Managing Director and CEO of Accelerator. Mr. Le has over 20 years of experience identifying, investing in, managing, and successfully exiting numerous seed and early-stage investments in the biotechnology sector. He has served as the founding CEO and director of numerous Accelerator Life Science Partners portfolio companies, including Petra Pharma (substantial acquisition by a global pharmaceutical company in May 2020), Rodeo Therapeutics (acquired by Amgen Inc. for up to $721 million in March 2021), and Lodo Therapeutics (acquired by Zymergen in May 2021). He currently oversees the firm’s investments in ALSP ORCHID Acquisition Corporation I (NASDAQ: ALORU | ALOR), Lydian Neurosciences, Magnolia Neurosciences, and Proniras Corporation, where he also serves as CEO and Director of each company.
Prior to joining Accelerator, Mr. Le served as a Managing Director at WRF Capital, the venture capital investment arm of Washington Research Foundation where he played a significant role in the early sourcing, financing, and development of numerous life science companies, including Alder Biopharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALDR | acquired by H. Lundbeck A/S), Corus Pharma (acquired by Gilead Sciences), Halosource (LSE: HALO), Hyperion Therapeutics (NASDAQ: HPTX | acquired by Horizon Pharma plc), Lumera (NASDAQ: LMRA), Pathway Medical Technologies (acquired by MEDRAD), and VLST (asset acquisition by major international pharmaceutical company). Prior to joining WRF Capital, Mr. Le was the founder, president and CEO of MiniMeals, Inc. and a consultant for Capital Management Consulting, Inc. Earlier, he was at Raymond James & Associates, Singer & Xenos Investment Management Company and Capital Management Group LLC, a private investment firm specializing in biomedical ventures.
Mr. Le completed post-graduate studies at the Templeton College of Oxford University and received his A.B. cum laude in Government from Harvard University. He serves on the advisory board for the Alexandria Seed Capital Platform and on the boards of Acylin Therapeutics, Briotech, and Ravenna Pharmaceuticals. He was previously named one of the region’s “40 Under 40” by the Puget Sound Business Journal.
Axel Trautwein, Ph.D., is Head of Small Molecules at Bayer AG, Crop Science Division. Small Molecules comprises chemistry, biology, biochemistry, analytics, formulation technology and data science functions to build a sustainable pipeline of effective and safe new active ingredients with insecticidal, nematicidal, fungicidal and herbicidal activity. Axel joined Bayer Central Research in 1999, working on life sciences, and moved to Bayer CropScience Research in 2002, subsequently joined Corporate Strategy before holding a variety of roles with increasing strategic responsibility in R&D in Germany and France, most recently, Head of Small Molecules Research.
Dr. Paul Bernasconi has over 25 years of experience in R&D. He is the owner of Bernasconi Consulting, Inc, a company active in the Agribusiness space. He is the part time COO of SOLASTA Bio, a spin-out of the University of Glasgow. As an Executive for BASF Biosciences in Research Triangle Park, Dr. Bernasconi led an international 120 scientist department responsible for all molecular biology and gene editing activities. Dr Bernasconi is a former director of BASF Crop Protection, in charge of the Insecticide biology and molecular biology. He was part of the team that developed Versys, an insecticide with a novel mode of action introduced in the market in 2018.
Dr. Bernasconi’s start-up experience includes a position of Director of Operations at Amphora Pharmaceuticals. He is also a former Director of Biochemistry at Syngenta, responsible for high throughput screening programs in herbicide, insecticide and fungicide discovery. While at Syngenta, he contributed to the commercialization of two herbicides and initiated the research on Dicamba tolerant soybean. He is the holder of over 12 patents in insect control, agrochemicals, microbiome manipulation and genome editing.
Executive Director of the Plant Sciences Initiative | North Carolina State University
With more than 30 years of experience in the agricultural sector, Adrian Percy is an advocate of the need for and benefits of modern agriculture. He is also a strong proponent of the development and adoption of new agricultural and food technologies that support global food security while conserving the environment and supporting rural community development.
Adrian is the inaugural Executive Director of the Plant Sciences Initiative (PSI) at North Carolina State University as of November 1, 2021. The PSI aims to exploit inter-disciplinary science and technology through public private partnerships to advance the plant sciences to the benefit of growers, consumers, and other food chain stakeholders.
He also is a Venture Partner at Finistere Ventures LLC, a technology and life sciences venture capital investor, focused on transforming the food value chain. Adrian serves on the board of directors of BioLumic, HiFidelity Genetics, and Evogene. He is a member of the science and technology boards of Oerth Bio, Terramera, Biotalys and Rothamsted Research and hosts the AgTech360 podcast on behalf of NC State’s Center for Excellence in Regulatory Science in Agriculture (CERSA).
Prior to joining NC State, Adrian served as the Chief Technology Officer of UPL Ltd a major crop protection company that is a leader in global food systems. Prior, he was the Head of Research and Development for the Crop Science division of Bayer and part of their executive committee. In that role, he had responsibility for internal and open innovation activities in the areas of crop protection chemistry and biologicals, as well as seeds and traits. During his 25-year tenure at Bayer and its legacy companies, he also held numerous positions in agricultural research and development in France, Germany, and the United States.
Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Adrian earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology at the University of Liverpool, as well as a master’s degree in toxicology and a doctorate in biochemistry at the University of Birmingham. He now resides in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, USA, with his wife and two children.
Dan is an experienced and successful executive in agri-business, with a passion for business development, new ventures and the power of team momentum. He started his career managing retail outlets, helping his local growers improve their operations with the latest technologies. This grower focus has helped him ensure customer value at every step along his journey leading different aspects of Syngenta seeds and crop protection business for almost two decades, including general management, business development, acquisitions, sales & marketing, agronomy and recently digital agriculture. With excellent business performance, he has gained ever increasing roles in the vegetable seeds, produce, corn and soybean seeds, crop protection and digital agriculture markets. Dan enjoys hiking in the North Carolina mountains and is a voracious reader.
Dr. Pastoor obtained his PhD in toxicology from the University of Michigan and is certified by the American Board of Toxicology (DABT). Dr. Pastoor retired in 2015 from Syngenta as Principal Scientist and founded the company Pastoor Science Communications, LLC, which is centered around his passion for sound science, communicated well. He also continues to provide regulatory and toxicological guidance in product development for several companies. Dr. Pastoor is past president of the Health and Environmental Sciences Institute (HESI) and is a Board member of several small biotechnology start-up companies as well as the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH).
Dr. Pastoor has over 40 years of international experience in fundamental toxicity testing, mode of action research, and human health risk assessment. For most his career, including positions with DuPont, ICI, Zeneca, Novartis, and Syngenta, Dr. Pastoor led toxicology and risk assessment experts in the conduct of safety, health, and environmental studies to assess risk to humans and the environment. In those roles, he was involved in toxicological research projects and product development and was frequently asked to interact with media, community groups, legislators, and regulatory agencies. He is a frequent lecturer on toxicology and risk assessment subjects.
In his “retirement” Dr. Pastoor has remained actively engaged in science, toxicology, risk assessment, and science communication. As founder and CEO of Pastoor Science Communications and through his role as past-president of HESI, he continues to engage global groups from academia, government, and corporations in developing consensus on difficult scientific issues.
Tim is an avid fly fisherman and photographer, and hopes his knees allow him to continue playing tennis for many years to come.
Raj Kaul brings 15 years of experience in Engineering Consulting and consumer products marketing / sales management, and more than 30 years in general management and M&A for Bayer India and Bayer Germany in Ag and related businesses. He’s a former member of several boards of JVs and other listed companies, e.g. Bayer India (a listed company) on behalf of Bayer AG, leading VC in USA on behalf of Bayer AG, Bilag India etc.
Raj has completed about 200 transactions from licensing, JVs, and research agreements, to partnerships, acquisitions and divestments. His single largest transaction was the acquisition of Aventis and its subsequent divestments. retired as member of the Group Leadership Circle of Bayer AG and Senior Vice President of Bayer CropScience AG.
Raj currently serves on the Board of Directors of Gowan, USA, Sajjan Industries, India, Boragen Bio, RTP USA. He is a former Board member of Vindara, RTP USA, and former Chairman of the Board Agrinos AS.
He was an advisor to Bayer Crop Science AG until 2014 and is currently advisor to Oerth Bio as well as a member expert panel of a leading European PE fund. Raj is Managing Partner, RK Associates, a business and advisory consulting company active in India and Europe.
John Salmeron is the Managing Director of S Research Partners LLC, a strategic consulting business working with agtech companies to maximize value from their R&D assets. John held research leadership positions at Syngenta, Intrexon and Precision Biosciences, in seed product development, genomics and genome editing. He was a member of the winning team for the Syngenta Purpose Award, for a novel approach to molecular marker discovery.
John is an adjunct faculty member at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. At Chapel Hill he teaches Careers In Biotechnology, giving students exposure to industry professionals and information on career paths.
John earned his A.B. degree at Washington University in St. Louis, his Ph.D. at Duke University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at Berkeley, where he isolated one of the first disease resistance genes from plants. He is a Project Management Professional as certified by the Project Management Institute.
Dr. Nitzan Shabek has over 15 years of research experience in the field of protein degradation and ubiquitin system in human and plants. He is a professor and principal investigator in the department of Plant Biology at the University of California, Davis.
Dr. Shabek’s research group integrates cutting edge approaches from the fields of structural biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and plant biology to elucidate signal transduction pathways and their regulation by the Ubiquitin Proteasome System.
Dr. Shabek earned his PhD in biochemistry with the mentorship of the Nobel Laurate, Dr. Aaron Ciechanover at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and has been an HHMI postdoctoral fellow in the University of Washington, Pharmacology Department.
Dr. Shabek received several distinct awards including the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, and the 2021 Arthur Neish Award from the American Phytochemical Society.
Helmut is an agronomist with a PhD in agricultural sciences/weed science from the University of Hohenheim, Germany. As visiting scientist with the USDA in Texas, he worked on remote sensing related topics. Consultancies for the German GTZ on weed problems in agricultural production systems brought him to various countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
In 1985 Helmut joined BASF by becoming Manager of the Agric. Research Station in Greenville, Mississippi. In 2003 the WSSA elected him as Honorary Member for his contributions to weed science with a global perspective. He also served as President of the EWRS.
A few years ago Helmut retired from BASF where he had been responsible for most of his 25 years of service for the discovery and development of new herbicides. In addition to this primary function he was appointed Director/VP of Global Development Agricultural Products.
After his retirement Helmut started his own firm “AgroField Consulting”. Most of his projects are related to agriculture and crop protection research, biologicals included.