We are a team of experts with vast experiences in both research and business. The team has managed to raise funding to support the early stage research, developed the prototype products, and established the initial commercialization strategy.
Fuyuan Jing (Founder and President): Dr. Jing obtained his bachelor degree from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China with a major in Plant Science and Technology and a minor in Business Administration (2001-2005). He also obtained a master’s degree from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China with his master’s project focused on secondary metabolic engineering of medicinal plants (2005-2008). Dr. Jing joined the Nikolau group in 2008 (Ph.D. 2013). His research project, sponsored by CBiRC, was focused on enzyme characterization and engineering that is the core of the VariFAS innovation. Jing explored the commercial feasibility of the technology and developed a business model, which is the basis for the foundation of VariFAS as a business entity.
Basil J. Nikolau (Founder and Chief Scientific Officer): Dr. Nikolau is the Frances M. Craig Professor of Biochemistry at Iowa State University. Dr. Nikolau is trained in the areas of biochemistry and molecular biology (Ph.D. 1982). Nikolau’s research interests and expertise are in the regulation and modification of metabolism, particularly focused on fatty acid, lipid and specialized metabolism. Currently he serves as the Deputy Director of CBiRC, which is based at Iowa State University. On the Iowa State University campus he has provided leadership in the area of metabolism as the Director of the Center of Metabolic Biology, which affiliates a group of 20 professors that have a common interest in metabolism. As the Director of this Center, Nikolau was instrumental in establishing the WM Keck Metabolomics Research Laboratory, a service laboratory that provides analytical capabilities to biological research groups. Nikolau’s research expertise therefore provides the fundamental basis for the generation of new innovations.
Peter L. Keeling (Founder and Vice-President Business Operations): Dr. Keeling is trained in biochemistry and its application to product development through molecular biology and genetics (Ph.D. 1981). He has more than 30 years of industry experience in the biotechnology sector and a broad understanding of how to advance innovative new technologies that add value to the life sciences, biomaterials and biorenewable sector. Dr. Keeling’s current position is Director of Innovation with the NSF-funded CBiRC. In this role Dr. Keeling works closely with academia and industry with a focus on fostering the development of an innovation ecosystem and providing an interface for technology transfer. Throughout his career he has published many papers and book chapters, and filed several patent applications.
Marna Yandeau-Nelson (Founder and Vice-President Research Operations): Dr. Yandeau- Nelson is trained in plant molecular genetics and molecular biology and biochemistry (Ph.D. 2005). Since 2009 Yandeau-Nelson (Associate Scientist and Graduate Faculty) has coordinated research efforts within CBiRC. This has involved mentoring over 30 graduate and undergraduate students, managing collaborations between research groups and securing/overseeing seed funding for related research projects. In 2014, She joined the department of the Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology in Iowa State University as an Assistant Professor. Her research interests include Understanding the genetic network of plant cuticle lipids and Harnessing natural metabolic pathways for the production of biorenewable compounds.
Libuse Brachova (Senior Research Scientist, VariFAS): Dr. Brachova is the first VariFAS employee and will serve as the PI on this SBIR proposal. Brachova has over 30 years of laboratory research experience in biochemistry, molecular biology, and metabolomics (Ph.D. 1985). She is an author of numerous publications. In her role as an Associate Scientist and laboratory manager at Iowa State University, she routinely coordinated research efforts among collaborating laboratories. Brachova was a key scientist for a consortium assembled from the NSF-funded 2010 Arabidopsis Genome Initiative. In this role, she oversaw the production of genetically defined biological research materials and coordinated their distribution and analysis among six research institutions. Brachova’s collective experiences make her well suited to lead this project and to coordinate VariFAS interactions with the research group at ISU.