Tell us about your company and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.
I provide regulatory support for renewable fuels and industrial biotech companies, focusing on EPA biotechnology regulations and compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard, and similar regulations overseas. I can also carry out market and technology assessments and provide assistance on patent and licensing activities.
Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.
My overriding goal is to leverage my areas of expertise to help companies move advanced and innovative fuel and chemical production technologies to the market. My technical training was in molecular biology, and throughout my career I’ve worked to promote the development, government approval and public acceptance of the uses of advanced biotechnologies in agriculture, environmental remediation, and energy production. Although my work in the energy sector isn’t necessarily limited to biological technologies, I have always been a strong believer in the global imperative to utilize biological solutions for important technological problems, particularly the need to phase out uses of fossil fuels. I’ve always hoped that my own particular skill set can help innovators and entrepreneurs navigate some of governmental speed bumps like regulations and the patent process.
What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?
To me, the clearest and most urgent milestone is the commercial validation and implementation of advanced biofuel and bio-based chemical technologies, including cellulosic and other non-food-based feedstocks; and most importantly including photosynthetic production of fuels and chemicals economically and at scale.
If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change?
If I may give a hybrid answer, I’d say that political uncertainties and the difficulties in raising capital combine (with other factors) to make it so difficult to build plants to move technologies to commercial scale. So, I’d snap my fingers to create easier paths to financing, particularly involving generous investment of government funds.
Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?
As I mentioned above, it is clearly the imperative to find non-fossil based solutions for fuel production and the many other industrial activities now dependent on petrochemicals. The bio-based economy won’t by itself sufficiently curb greenhouse gas emissions, but I firmly believe it will play a major role in the decades to come.
Where are you from?
Queens, New York
What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway?
I was a biology/biochemistry major at Cornell, and also got a PhD in biochemical sciences/molecular biology at Princeton. My interest and aptitude for math and science arose very early in my life, and I was steered to biology by my fascination with the growing understanding of the molecular basis of genetics during my formulative years.
Who do you consider your mentors – could be personal, business, or just people you have read about and admire. What have you learned from them?
Although I can’t point to one single mentor during the years of my career, I’d say that I learned important lessons about professionalism, integrity and honesty throughout my career. Although not directly relevant to my work in industrial biotechnology, I’ve spent many years working in academic technology transfer, where I learned (particularly from my first boss in a tech transfer office) the importance of paying attention to detail and the need for precision in patents, legal contracts, and similar activities, as well as the need to adhere to ethical principles and high professional standards. As I transitioned over the years to a consulting career, I have always tried to carry these traits to my work for clients, so that I can best serve their interests in a competent, professional manner.
What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?
Although I’ve been lucky to have had few periods of professional adversity in my career, I’ve had challenging times when I was transitioning from one role to another, including a recent unexpected need to rebuild my consulting practice after several years away from it. During such times, I’ve learned to work hard to utilize my capabilities and strengths to set goals and set strategies to achieve those goals.
What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry?
I’m a recreational bike rider, I tend a vegetable garden as best as New England’s short summers allow, and I’m an inveterate reader. Also, although I’m embarrassed to admit it, I’m one of the last remaining stamp collectors on earth, a habit I started as a child and somehow never lost.
What are 3 books you’d want to have with you, if you were stranded on a desert island.
This is of course an impossible question, but I’d say The Origin of Species; Gravity’s Rainbow; and a compilation of transcribed Monty Python sketches or the Marx Brothers movies. But if you asked me tomorrow I’d probably give you a different answer!
What books or articles (excluding The Digest) are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?
I read a lot of popular science and history of science books, which give me a great perspective of how science has developed and where it stands at the present time. Two novels that have recently impressed me were “Let the Great World Spin” by Colum McCann, and “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson — both very elegantly and movingly written.
What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?
I don’t think I have a favorite place, although I enjoy spending time in the Berkshires most summers. Generally, I love to travel and wish I had more time to play tourist in Europe and the American west, particularly the national parks.