Board of Directors

Lee Edwards

Chairman of the Board, CEO and President, Virent

Lee joined Virent as president and chief executive officer in January 2009. He is the former Chairman and 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, Virent

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. 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.

John Neis, CFA

Managing Director, Venture Investors

John is managing director of Venture Investors, an early-stage venture capital firm focused on opportunities emerging from leading research universities in the Midwest. He currently serves on the Board of Directors at Cellectar, Inc., Deltanoid Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the Wisconsin Technology Council and is a science and technology advisor to Wisconsin’s governor and legislature. He serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board, the Advisory Board of the Weinert Applied Ventures Program in the School of Business and the Tandem Press Advisory Board in the School of Education at the University of WisconsinMadison. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in finance from the University of Utah and received an MS in marketing and finance from the University of WisconsinMadison. He is a chartered financial analyst.

John D. Rice

John has had a long and successful career with increasing leadership at the Archer Daniels Midland Company over the past 36 years, serving as its Vice Chairman, Commercial and Production prior to his retirement in 2012. He also held various Executive Vice President positions during his tenure, overseeing risk management, marketing, corn processing, global bioproducts and other divisions of the company. He has an extensive background in agricultural commodities, new product launches, international trade and manufacturing, strategic planning, risk management, processing, merchandising, marketing and executive leadership. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Arpesh Mehta

Director, Black River Asset Management

Arpesh is a Director at Black River Asset Management. In 2005, he joined Cargill Ventures, a diversified venture capital fund owned by Cargill Inc. In 2007, the management of the fund was transferred to Black River, where Arpesh continued to work on the Ventures fund in addition to Black River’s Clean Energy Investment fund. Arpesh has worked on numerous investments in the clean technology and life science sectors. In addition to Virent, Arpesh is a Board Director for Prometheus Energy; a Board Observer for Plasco Energy Group, Sindicatum Renewable Resources, and Alvine Pharmaceuticals; and oversees Black River’s investment in BrightSource Energy. Prior to Black River, Mr. Mehta held various R&D and marketing positions in the biotech industry, and authored ten research publications. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering from UCLA, and a MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University.