Leadership

Lee Edwards – President & Chief Executive Officer

Lee joined Virent as President and CEO in January 2009. He currently serves as Chairman Emeritus and executive committee member of the Advanced Biofuel Association representing 40 member companies in Washington, DC. Prior to joining Virent, Lee had 25 years global energy experience at BP, including CEO of BP Solar, President of BP Pipelines, North America, Chief Information Officer for Downstream, and Vice President, BP Global Brand. He holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from Bucknell University, an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School and is a graduate of the Stanford Business School Executive Program.

Dr. Randy Cortright, PhD – Founder & Chief Technical Officer

Randy is a leading figure in the field of catalytic processing of biomass-derived feedstocks into chemicals and fuels. He is the co-inventor of Aqueous Phase Reforming, the innovative pathway to biofuels and bioproducts used by the BioForming® technology platform. His background includes research and development, process design, start-up, and operations of large scale industrial catalytic processes at UOP, a provider of petroleum and petrochemical process technologies. He received BS and MS degrees in Chemical Engineering from Michigan Technological University. After leaving UOP, Randy earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At Wisconsin, he specialized in catalytic systems for the clean manufacturing of fuels and petrochemicals. He is the inventor on more than 125 patents and patent applications worldwide and is the author of over 40 technical publications.

Jeff White – Chief Financial Officer

Throughout Jeff’s 30-year career he has been integrally involved in international finance, risk management, mergers and acquisitions and executive leadership. Prior to joining Virent, Jeff was CFO at Oakleaf Waste Management, CEO at Renew Energy, and CFO at two publicly traded companies, RCN Corporation and Telecom Corporation of New Zealand (TCNZ). He was also Vice President of Investments and Acquisitions at Ameritech Corporation where he oversaw the $2.5B acquisition of TCNZ. While at TCNZ he led a $2.5B secondary stock offering and was instrumental in delivering over $10B in shareholder value during his tenure. He received a B.A. in Accounting, and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Jeff Moore – Executive Vice President, Business Operations

Jeff has focused on building successful start-up companies through his expertise in structuring strategic business alliances, attracting early stage funding and developing effective business infrastructure. He co-founded and was COO of nGimat, a provider of engineered nanomaterials and technologies, which grew to 120 people and nearly $10M in revenue primarily on a bootstrap model. Jeff remains on nGimat’s Board of Directors. He has held key consulting positions at other start-ups and began his career as a corporate counsel for IBM. He earned a BS in Business Administration-Accounting from Miami University of Ohio and a JD from Ohio State University College of Law. Jeff passed the CPA examination and has been admitted to the State Bars of New York and Georgia.

David Kettner – Vice President, Legal Affairs

Dave has managed Virent’s legal affairs since joining the company in early 2007.  Dave is a licensed patent attorney with over 13 years of experience in intellectual property management and other legal matters, including patent prosecution, licensing, enforcement, and strategic planning. Before joining Virent, Dave served as Chief Legal Counsel for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). In this role, he developed and managed WARF’s Contract Management Department and served as in-house patent counsel and lead counsel with respect to contract drafting, negotiation and litigation management. Prior to WARF, Dave also provided similar services to a variety of clients as an attorney in private practice. Dave holds a JD in Law and BS in Genetics and Cell Biology from the University of Minnesota.

Edgar Steenwinkel – Vice President of Research

Edgar joined Virent in 2014 as VP of R&D to lead technology development efforts of Virent’s BioForming® platform. Prior to working for Virent, Edgar worked for Albemarle, where he served as Global Business Director for Alternative Fuels Technologies. At Albemarle, he led multiple global development and commercialization efforts for catalysts and other new, innovative products for biobased transportation fuels. Edgar has 20+ years of demonstrated success in R&D, manufacturing and building new global business groups. He received a M.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Amsterdam.

 

Andrew Held – Senior Director, Deployment and Engineering

Andrew has ten years of operations and R&D experience at Cargill, an international provider of food, agricultural and risk management products and services, where he played instrumental roles on technical, engineering, and operations management teams scaling production processes for commercialization. His work has included the manufacture of organic acids and edible polyols by fermentation, lactic acid for polymers, and natural polyols for polyurethanes. Andrew specializes in the integration of biological and chemical processes and has worked extensively with natural feedstocks and biocatalytic conversion methods. He earned his BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and an MS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kieran Furlong – Director, Business Development

Kieran Furlong has extensive experience in the global chemical industry, in addition to his time spent in the world of clean technology start-ups. Currently, Kieran leads the business development and commercialization activities for Virent’s technology in the chemicals field. Previously Kieran worked in the catalyst businesses of ICI, plc. and Johnson Matthey, plc. and during that time he gained experience in fields as diverse as oleochemicals, natural gas processing, biofuels and polymers. Immediately prior to Virent, Kieran worked at Solazyme, Inc., a pioneer in the application of industrial biotechnology to renewable fuels and chemicals. Kieran received his BS in Chemical Engineering from University College Dublin, Ireland and his Masters of Business Administration from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

Frank Liotta – Director, Business Development

Frank has a wealth of experience in the global chemical industry, leading both R&D and new product commercialization. He has a demonstrated track record leading the development and commercialization of new chemical products into a wide range of markets. Currently, Frank leads the effort to identify, develop and grow new business opportunities, expanding the application of Virent’s technology to produce a broader range of chemicals for a range of markets. Prior to joining Virent, Frank worked in the intermediate chemicals organization at LyondellBasell and its predecessor companies during which time he gained experience in a diverse set of markets as including construction chemicals, solvents, fuels, fuel additives, dispersants, and monomers. His product commercialization experience spans the entire range from opportunity identification through post commercialization sales, marketing and product management. Frank earned his BS in Chemistry from The Pennsylvania State University, his Masters of Science and Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Cornell University, and his Masters of Business Administration from the Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University.

Ralph Lerner – Director, Business Development

Ralph joined Virent in 2014 as Director of Business Development and will initially focus on our Fuels activities. He has 30+ years of experience within the biofuels, petrochemicals and energy industries and a demonstrated track record in developing new business ventures and commercial relationships, developing and implementing business strategies, and leading project development teams. Ralph’s international experience includes six years working in China and Asia in business development, joint venture management, and planning and strategy roles in various chemical product lines. Companies Ralph worked for prior to joining Virent include Edeniq, BP plc and Amoco Corporation. Ralph received an MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago, MS in Chemical Engineering from Stanford, and BS in Chemistry from the University of Illinois.

Paul Blommel, PhD – Director, Technology Development

Paul Blommel, Ph.D. has worked at Virent since 2007 and is the Director of Technology Development. His group focuses on the integration of catalytic processes to produce aromatic chemicals from carbohydrates and oxygenates. Prior to joining Virent, he conducted research in the genetic engineering of enzymes for improved function and productivity at the University of Wisconsin. His professional experience includes eight years of service at UOP where he worked on the development of novel catalysts and in field services for aromatics production. In field services, he was involved in the commercialization, troubleshooting, and first commercial startup of several technologies for aromatics production targeted at production of paraxylene, metaxylene, and ethylbenzene. Dr. Blommel received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 1993 and his PhD in Biophysics in 2007 from the University of Wisconsin.

Bob Rozmiarek – Director, Program Management and Business Analysis

Bob has extensive experience in process technology development, project management and business analysis.  Bob joined Virent in 2005 and has maintained various roles from managing Process Engineering activities through leading Business Analysis in areas such as techno-economics, life-cycle assessments, feedstock evaluations and market analysis.  Prior to joining Virent, Bob spent five years at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) where he was a Development Engineer for the Catalysis and Reaction Engineering group.  At PNNL, he was involved in a broad range of activities including process and catalyst development, process design and economics and reactor design.  Bob holds a BS degree from Iowa State University and a MS degree from Washington State University, both in Chemical Engineering.

Jennifer Phillips, SPHR – Director, Human Resources

Jennifer Phillips joined Virent in 2009 and is Virent’s Director of Human Resources, serving as a strategic and operational business partner.  Jennifer is a high-energy, results focused individual who brings a practical business perspective to the HR function.  She delivers strong people-focused programs using her expertise in competency, career and leadership development, employee relations and conflict resolution and organizational resource planning.  Jennifer has 20 years of HR experience within the US Navy, petrochemical, medical device design and renewable chemicals and fuels industries, holding positions in manufacturing, corporate functions and regional operations. Jennifer received her Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and has degrees in both Psychology and Sociology.    

Tobin Johnson – Senior Director, Operations

Tobin has 30+ years of experience in chemical manufacturing, a majority of which was spent managing plants for The Dow Chemical Company. He has spent the past five years working in biofuels managing ethanol plants in Wisconsin. His work in the chemicals industry includes the manufacture of inorganic salts, cellulose ethers, herbicides, medical disinfectants, dental consumables, ethanol, and large scale packaging and formulation, where he specializes in applying continuous improvement techniques to optimize production and drive toward economical manufacture of chemicals. Tobin earned his BS in Chemistry from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and MS in Chemistry from Illinois State University.